$15 million fund started to help local small businesses

$15 million fund started to help local small businesses

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Local businesses have partnered together to give millions of dollars to locally-owned small businesses.

Epicenter and Pathway Lending are launching the Memphis Small Business Opportunity Loan Fund. The $15 million fund is intended to improve access to capital, particularly for minority- and women-owned businesses. Initial capitalization of the fund is being provided by Pinnacle Financial Partners, First Tennessee, and Regions Bank.

The fund will provide businesses that may not yet qualify for a conventional bank business loan with access to loans ranging from $5,000 to $1,000,000 to support growth opportunities.

"Epicenter is focused on adding and scaling resources for entrepreneurs in our community, especially as it relates to capital, and making it easier for local entrepreneurs to fund their businesses," president and CEO, Epicenter,  Leslie Lynn Smith said. "This fund is a flexible and affordable way to support entrepreneurs and business owners -- particularly in communities of color -- with capital at a critical time in their growth."

Additional business-building services and support will be provided to business owners who participate in the fund. The services are designed to help small businesses grow, capitalize on opportunities, and become more bankable with traditional lenders.

"While we have an existing portfolio of clients in Memphis, we see tremendous opportunity in this new partnership with Epicenter to reach more entrepreneurs in this region, and, together with Epicenter and its network partners, provide a stronger set of tools to help unlock their growth potential," VP of Lending and Clients Relations in West Tennessee, Travis Hughes said.

It's part of a renewed effort to pump up minority- and women-owned businesses in Memphis. Last month, Mayor Jim Strickland announced the 800 Initiative, a program aimed at closing the disparity gap between white- and black-owned businesses in Memphis.

Memphis is really creating a lot of companies that are growing here locally and employing folks," Smith said. "One of the things that stalls that growth is access to capital to help them scale in to those opportunities."

Andre Gist is the CEO of MIG Steel Fabrication. He considers himself lucky to be where he is on his business' path to success, knowing not all companies have the money in the beginning to get started.

"They don't have the cash flow to be able to survive between checks and so this is important to be able to have loans and lines of credits for small businesses especially when they are trying to start," Gist said.

Entrepreneurs and business owners interested in finding out more information about the fund can attend one of two informational sessions at Epicenter on June 25, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., or June 27, from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Click here to RSVP.

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