Two years after launching an innovative loan fund in collaboration with leaders of color in the Tucson business community, Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Community Managed Loan Fund are celebrating their 50th no-interest loan. The fund, which focuses on improving capital access to entrepreneurs of color, has made over $400,000 in loans to date across Southern Arizona.
The celebration also marks an expansion of two key partnerships with local nonprofit organizations, Growth Partners Arizona and Startup Tucson. For its part, Startup Tucson is creating the first paid position for what has, to date, been an all-volunteer management committee, while Growth Partners Arizona will be expanding the fund’s lending footprint in 2024 to central and northern Arizona through a $250,000 grant from Wells Fargo. The expansion will include targeted outreach to rural BIPOC entrepreneurs.
Growth Partners Arizona, a certified Community Development Financial Institution, recently invested $100,000 in the BIPOC Loan Fund to serve southern Arizona and have now committed another $250,000 to expand the fund’s lending footprint to the entire state. The $250,000 comes from a grant from Wells Fargo and supports the bank’s work to accelerate the growth of underserved small businesses across the country through investments that increase access to capital, expand entrepreneurial networks, and provide access to knowledge through technical assistance and capacity building resources.
This investment is a part of our larger focus to expand innovative lending programs throughout the state of Arizona. Thanks to the funding from our partners at Wells Fargo we will be able to start the new year off making a significant investment within our rural communities. As we look ahead to the future we are excited to continue to build towards a more inclusive economy.
Startup Tucson, a Tucson-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to revolutionize the Southern Arizona region’s economy through entrepreneurship and innovation, is committing part of the time of their Director of Entrepreneur Success and Access to Capital, Keneshia Raymond, to helping expand the fund’s impact. Raymond is a founding committee member of the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund and will become the BIPOC Loan Fund’s first funded staff person.
Raymond will play a pivotal role in spearheading this initiative and expanding its reach, resources, and impact. Raymond will collaborate closely with CIC to develop comprehensive strategies, promote awareness, secure funding, and provide strong leadership to ensure the BIPOC Loan Fund’s continued growth and sustainability.
Startup Tucson recognizes the pressing need within the community for equitable and accessible access to capital for BIPOC business owners. “At Startup Tucson we champion the BIPOC Loan Fund and wholeheartedly support its mission to empower underrepresented entrepreneurs and foster a more inclusive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.” said Raymond. Raymond background includes 14 years as an entrepreneur and business coach who, in addition to her duties at Startup Tucson, runs her own online company, has raised over $8 million of investment for small businesses, and successfully exited a previous business.
“Keneshia’s experience as an entrepreneur and her leadership within the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund has been truly exceptional,” said CIC’s Executive Director, Danny Knee. “She is forward-thinking with a vision to activate the sidelined economic power of underrepresented entrepreneurs within our community whose businesses have suffered from underinvestment.”
The BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund is an example of character-based lending, an underwriting approach through which a borrower’s personal qualities, community reputation, and other factors beyond credit scores and collateral are given greater emphasis. Its volunteer committee of BIPOC community leaders has complete authority over the loan fund including defining the application process and underwriting criteria to assess loan viability. In the loan product design phase, the committee identified specific obstacles to capital access for BIPOC communities which included distrust of the traditional financial institutions, overly complicated application processes, and banking’s over-reliance on collateral and credit scores to make loan approval determinations. A low-barrier application allows business owners to apply via video or audio as well as in writing.
“One of the largest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially BIPOC entrepreneurs, in our region is access to capital,” said said Liz Pocock, CEO, Startup Tucson. “The trailblazing work of CIC and the BIPOC Loan Fund strengthens our economy, and we couldn’t be prouder to call them a partner and support the future longevity of the Fund and its mission.”
As the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund continues to pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable business landscape, this partnership with Startup Tucson reinforces the collective commitment to driving positive change and advancing economic empowerment in Southern Arizona. On Friday, September 15th, CIC and Startup Tucson will be hosting a 2 year Celebration of the BIPOC Loan Fund Celebration at Hotel McCoy from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Festivities will include acknowledging the programs’ milestones and partnerships, amplifying the talent and hard work of program participants, and connecting within our community.
For more information about the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund and its partnership with Startup Tucson and Growth Partners Arizona, please visit the program website, here.
About CIC: Community Investment Corporation (CIC) is a financial empowerment nonprofit. We give the members of our community, who are shut out of and left behind in our economy, access to the knowledge and financing they need to pursue new opportunities. CIC unlocks the door to prosperity for all members of our community to meaningfully participate in our powerful but imperfect capitalist economic system and reclaim the American Dream. At CIC, WE KNOW YOUR WORTH. The system may not recognize your value, but we do. Learn more about our loan, homeownership, and school bond compliance programs at CICTucson.org.
About Startup Tucson: Startup Tucson is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to transform our region’s economy through entrepreneurship and innovation. Startup Tucson executes this mission by providing education and culture-building programs and events to grow a high-impact entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem. You can find information about the organization and upcoming opportunities to engage at startuptucson.com.
About Growth Partners Arizona: About Growth Partners Arizona Growth Partners Arizona is the largest Black-led Arizona-based CDFI that provides affordable, responsible financial products to local underserved communities. As a trusted intermediary between the public and private sectors, Growth Partner Arizona aims to achieve economic justice through forward thinking, collaborative, and inclusive approaches to capital access in Arizona. We are committed to building a more inclusive economy that works for everyone. For more information visit: growthpartnersaz.org.