Tucson Helping Tucson: Activating to Support Small Business from Danny Knee, CIC Executive Director

Less than one month ago no one could have imagined half the stores on 4th Avenue being in danger of being permanently shuttered or the bakeries of South Tucson no longer in place to bake authentic pan dulce and bolillo.  What seems like overnight we are at grave risk of losing  cultural and community investments that are  not only vibrant businesses like Five Points Market, and farmer’s market mainstay Sunflower Superfoods, but also businesses that act as community spaces like American Eat Company and Cartel Coffee Lab.  I for one can’t imagine Tucson without my favorite Sonoran hot dog cart, El Sinaloense, on Alvernon just south of Pima. 

Small businesses are at the heart of Tucson’s economy and of Tucson’s culture. And just like the individuals in our community dealing with the necessary restrictions in our fight to contain COVID-19, our small businesses are as well, and they are being particularly hard hit. Business owners are making great sacrifices to help us all stay safe, and because of their sacrifice many of our businesses are in jeopardy of shutting down, for good. 

99% of all firms in the U.S. are small businesses and over 50% of our nation’s private sector work force are employed by them. The effects of COVID-19 could be devastating as it’s estimated that as many as 50% of small businesses could close due to COVID-19 depending on how long we’re fighting to contain its spread. The average small business has enough cash reserves on hand to last them roughly 27 days. The pandemic we are facing and the restrictions needed to contain it will far surpass that timeframe. Our small businesses need your help now. 

Tucson Helping Tucson (THT) is a coalition of Tucson businesses and individuals who care and who understand the depth and breadth of the road ahead for our small business community. Community Investment Corporation is partnering with THT to raise money to provide critical financial assistance to the businesses hardest hit by this pandemic. Starting the evening of April 4, and every Saturday thereafter, THT will be livestreaming a virtual variety show that provides a much needed paid performance opportunity for local talent, while broadcasting an interactive, fun, and family-friendly program safely to Tucson homes. When safety permits, THT plans to produce a major three-day virtual event for the community to celebrate all that we are and all that we have overcome. In parallel with our programming is a sustained fundraising drive. With money raised we’ll provide grants and create a no-interest revolving loan fund to help keep the local treasures that make up our small business community afloat. This fund will not only support Tucson until we are able to go back to business as usual but will act as an emergency fund to help no matter what our local economy faces in the future. I know that our businesses are resilient and will “pay it back to pay it forward” to others in need, but right now we need everyone to get involved, give what you can and invest in the future of the small business economy. 

We’re asking you to stand with us and to support Tucson’s homegrown business community through the health and financial crisis we’re facing.  

Community Capital Loan Products

Crowdfunding as a Loan Product

That’s right – it’s more than asking your friends and family for donations, and new platforms are making it easier for businesses to tap into community capital as loans.

Here at the Community Investment Corporation, we’ve been exploring alternative funding models to help more entrepreneurs find their way on to the capital ladder. With the need greater than ever, we wanted to expose our community to crowdfunding as an option and clear up some questions our borrowers have about the platform.

Crowdfunding at a Glance

A method of raising capital through the collective effort of friends, family, customers, and individual investors. Instead of a single loan or a small group of investors, crowdfunding is raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically through an online platform. (Source: Fundable.com)

Types of Crowdfunding

There are many different types of crowdfunding, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to compare and contrast two different kinds – donation platforms and lending platforms.

Donation-Based Crowdfunding

Donation-based crowdfunding assumes you will not be repaying people who donate to your cause. Common donation-based crowdfunding initiatives include fundraising for disaster relief, charities, nonprofits, and medical bills.

Lending-Based Crowdfunding

Unlike the donation-based crowdfunding, lending-based crowdfunding allows contributors to loan your company money for repayment over time. Each lending-based crowdfunding platform has different repayment terms. Two we want to highlight here are Kiva and WeFunder.


WeFunder – Lenders are repaid over a period of time based on a percentage of the revenue the company generates and usually for a percentage gain. Loan size is $50,000 – $1MM.

WeFunder is helping entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis by providing a platform to raise $20,000 – $1MM on their platform through the crowd. Repayment would not begin until 2021, and it would be dependent upon the revenue the company is generating. As a lender, you would be paid back through distributions of 5% of the company’s revenue over time until the loan is repaid in full at a 3% interest rate. The interest does not compound.

The minimum amount a lender must invest in a WeFunder campaign is $100, so that’s something else to keep in mind when you think about asking your network of friends and family for investment. 


Kiva Tucson – Lenders are repaid over a period of time (from 1-3 years) the exact amount they loaned. Loan size is $1,000 – $10,000.
Kiva is helping during the COVID-19 crisis by providing no fee, no-interest loans up to $15,000 and a 6-month deferment.
The minimum amount someone must lend on Kiva is $25. Kiva Tucson is a program of Growth Partners Arizona in partnership with the Community Investment Corporation.

The Benefits of Crowdfunding

Businesses need working capital. People have money they can loan. 

Consider the message to potential investors when you are considering a crowdfunding campaign. Businesses that will be generating revenue (again, but perhaps need bridge funding at the moment) who are looking to raise working capital should consider lending-based crowdfunding. The ask is easier for your customers, friends and family to loan money than to donate money.

For projects or campaigns that are not ever meant to be businesses or to generate money (art projects, medical expenses, etc.), consider a donation-based crowdfunding campaign.

If you’re interested in a Kiva loan, email Paul Mendoza, Capital Access Manager, Kiva Tucson at paul@growthpartnersaz.org or call 520-891-4413. Tucson and all of Southern Arizona is a US Kiva Hub, which means we have resources to help you navigate the process and increase success rates on the platform.

If you’d like to learn more about WeFunder, The Community Investment Corporation is a partner and we can accelerate the process for businesses in Southern Arizona. Reach out to Carie at danny@cictucson.org for more information, or call 520-529-1766.