BIPOC Loan Fund Committee Retreat: Empowering Entrepreneurs and Expanding Access to Capital

BIPOC Loan Fud Committee all together at the 2024 Retreat
BIPOC Loan Fud Committee all together at the 2024 Retreat

On June 22, 2024, the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund Committee held their first annual retreat to reflect on the mission, vision, and the impact of their work. Four years since the loan funds inception, this retreat was a crucial moment for the committee to ensure they are staying true to their goals and expectations of the program, expanding the loan fund and continuing to support BIPOC entrepreneurs in our community effectively.

The BIPOC Loan Fund is a community-managed initiative designed to provide equitable access to capital for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) business owners in Southern Arizona. The Interest-free microloans of up to $10,000 are granted using a character-based lending model, which prioritizes the entrepreneur’s personal story over their financial history. The loan fund was established by the Community Investment Corporation (CIC)  in response to the national calls for racial equity and justice in 2020. The committee is composed of BIPOC business community leaders (all who are not in the financial space) who meet monthly to approve loan applications and make funding decisions based on the personal and professional stories of the applicants. Each member of the committee brings diverse perspectives and experiences, ensuring that the fund addresses the unique challenges faced by BIPOC entrepreneurs.

The current committee members include:

Keneshia Raymond- Startup Tucson, Camila Martins-Bekat– Tucson Electric Power, Daniel Howe- The Earnest House LLC, Jasmine Rucker– Consultant, Isabel Georgelos– YWCA Southern Arizona, Veelie Alba– Entrepreneur.  

The retreat focused on several key objectives: reaffirming the mission and vision, emphasizing the revolving nature of the fund, supporting future businesses, and making storytelling more accessible. Emphasizing the revolving nature of the fund, the committee discussed strategies to ensure that loan recipients understand the importance of repaying their loans, as this repayment is crucial for sustaining the cycle of support for new businesses in need of capital. The committee explored ways to enhance support for future businesses, including providing more mentorship and financial literacy education and opportunities to ensure the success of funded businesses. Recognizing the central role of storytelling in the application process, the committee discussed making this aspect even more accessible, aiming to ensure that all applicants, regardless of their preferred communication method, can effectively share their stories through text, audio, or video submissions.

Since its inception, the BIPOC Loan Fund has made significant strides in supporting BIPOC entrepreneurs. The fund has provided over $400,000 in loans to date, helping 31 small businesses across various industries, including agriculture, retail, and media. The committee’s ongoing efforts to expand the fund’s reach, particularly into rural areas, highlight their commitment to addressing the broader disparities in capital access for BIPOC communities.

The success of the BIPOC Loan Fund has been fueled by strong community partnerships. CIC and the committee extends heartfelt gratitude to their partners and sponsors, including Startup Tucson Growth Partners Arizona, BLAX Friday, YWCA, Women’s Foundation For The State Of Arizona, TEP……  . These organizations support the innovative work of CIC, recognizing their efforts to create new opportunities for the community and to dismantle systems to ensure they benefit everyone. Their support is instrumental in expanding the fund’s reach and impact, particularly into underserved and rural areas.

The retreat reinforced the committee’s dedication to their mission and served as a strategic planning session to ensure the fund’s continued impact and sustainability. By focusing on these core objectives, the BIPOC Loan Fund Committee is poised to make even greater strides in empowering BIPOC entrepreneurs and fostering a more inclusive economy.

For more information about the BIPOC Loan Fund and how to apply, visit the website or contact the Community Investment Corporation. Sources:

BIPOC Loan Fund

CIC Tucson – BIPOC Loan Community Managed Loan Fund