Investment helping restore jobs and economy to black and brown neighborhoods
For the 17 recipients of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s ThriveOn Small Business Loans, access to new capital provides the opportunity to reopen, hire, maintain or improve business operations in a variety of ways. About 40 jobs should be created or restored.
The foundation is rapidly deploying a total of $ 780,000 in low-interest loans with favorable terms, ranging from $ 25,000 to $ 50,000, to small businesses in Milwaukee. Almost 80% of businesses are located in the Halyard Park, Harambee and Brewers Hill neighborhoods associated with the ThriveOn collaboration, and all are owned by people of color.
“Successful neighborhoods rely on successful small businesses for jobs, for accessible products and services, and for attracting economic activity and momentum,” said Kenneth Robertson, executive vice president of the foundation, COO and CFO. “The foundation is well aware that black and brown-owned businesses already face systemic barriers to accessing finance, so when we saw the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on small businesses in Milwaukee neighborhoods,“ we knew we had to think outside the box and act fast. . We are happy to have been able to raise these dollars as a form of relief and potential growth for the owners of our community.
Help sectors with acute needs
The foundation launched the Small Business Loan Program in May to help strengthen the economic backbone of local neighborhoods, especially in areas hardest hit by the pandemic. Of those approved for financing, 28% are in retail, 24% are specialized businesses, 18% are in the restaurant or food industry, 18% are in commercial real estate and 12 % in health care. (A complete list of recipients appears at the bottom of this version). Half of the businesses were temporarily closed at the time of the request.
Loans can be used for working capital and normal operating expenses, improving physical locations or refinancing debt, supporting areas such as business stabilization and staff growth. Recipient companies plan to increase employment from current levels by reverting to pre-crisis staffing, new hires and reopenings.
As an added benefit, the ThriveOn Small Business Loan program combines ongoing technical assistance with financing. Program participants will be able to access support in areas such as accounting, cash flow management tools and related technology that could further advance long-term business success.
Exhibit a personal touch
Maintaining a community-centered approach to the program included personal contact with neighborhood business owners to raise awareness of the program and answer questions. The team identified over 150 potentially eligible businesses in Halyard Park, Brewers Hill and Harambee, then organized community meetings and events, went door-to-door, and communicated by phone and email to reach out to them. owners. In the end, 33 applications were received, of which 17 closed their loans.
“The ThriveOn loan was just the nudge I needed to move forward with Vogue Dreams,” said Tonda Thompson, owner of Vogue Dreams, a Milwaukee media and talent company. “Since receiving the loan, I have updated my equipment and my reservations have doubled. I am now able to hire help and complete the work. Thank you GMF!
Economic inclusion through investment
The ThriveOn Small Business Loans are part of a five-year, $ 30 million commitment to promote equitable economic opportunities through the Foundation’s Impact Investing Program. The Foundation leverages impact investing to advance racial equity and economic inclusion through programs, projects and businesses that generate social and financial returns.
Past and current impact investments have supported entrepreneurial growth, job creation and business redevelopment, thus attracting additional external investment. Including the Foundation’s $ 10 million investment in the ThriveOn King building – its future home – the program has so far invested more than $ 12 million in the community.
“Our generous donors have played a key role in making ThriveOn Small Business Loans a reality, committing more than $ 500,000 to this effort,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the foundation. “Overall, the Foundation has received over $ 1.4 million for its impact investing program. This level of partnership demonstrates our shared values and our collective interest in reinventing philanthropy to achieve a thriving Milwaukee for all. “
The following ThriveOn Small Business loan recipients:
About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is the largest community foundation in Wisconsin and one of the first in the world. For over a century, the Foundation has been at the heart of the civic community, helping donors achieve the greatest philanthropic impact, elevating the work of change makers in neighborhoods, and bringing together people and organizations to help our region to prosper. Racial equity is the North Star of the Foundation, guiding its investments and strategies for social and economic change.
Drawing on generations of community knowledge, cross-sector partnerships and over $ 1 billion in financial assets, the Foundation is committed to reinventing philanthropy, refocusing communities and redesigning systems to transform our region. into a Milwaukee for everyone.