Low-Interest Small Business Loans Still Available to Help Eligible Businesses
Initially established as the Small Business Recovery Fund during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Durham Small Business Opportunity Loan Fund recently crossed the $1 million lending milestone in its quest to help with the shifting small business landscape and changing needs of Durham’s entrepreneurs.
The Fund is the result of a partnership between Durham County, the City of Durham, and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF). Since it began in 2020, the Fund has distributed more than $1 million in low-interest loans to 45 small businesses, 71% which are minority-owned firms and 43% which are women-owned firms.
“Given the impact the fund and its included technical assistance can have on a small business, we’ve leveraged partner and community relationships to promote its benefit to eligible entrepreneurs throughout Durham,” said Andrew Miracle, director of the County’s Office of Economic Development. “Continuing to reach underserved businesses that have historically lacked access to capital is a top priority for the available funding that remains.”
CSBDF, the administrator of the Fund, is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides capital, technical assistance, and policy research to support small businesses. “Oftentimes, the ability of a small business to grow steadily with an eye toward sustainability depends heavily on the acquisition of affordable capital,” said Kevin Dick, president and CEO of CSBDF. “This innovative partnership between CSBDF, Durham County, and the City of Durham has helped create more opportunities for 45 small businesses that contribute so much to Durham’s economic vitality. We’re so proud of all this program has achieved, and we’re excited for what more we can accomplish through this program, and through this continued partnership with Durham County and the City of Durham.”
One such example of an entrepreneur supported by the Fund is Durham-based artist, Maya Freelon, whose business halted due to COVID-19 closures. “As a Black woman, artist, and small business owner, I take pride in sharing my artwork around the world, with my home and studio based in Durham,” said Freelon. “I rely on art sales, commissions, exhibitions, and speaking engagements to make a living, and the pandemic brought all of that to a stop. It was the first time in my career that I questioned whether I could continue being a full-time artist.”
Freelon, whose award-winning work appears in collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and in U.S. Embassies around the world, found out about the Fund through a community listserv, and she reached out to CSBDF Business Solutions Officer Darlene Deberry for more information. “This was my first business loan and she [Deberry] took the time to explain the process and how to create a strong application,” said Freelon. “It felt great to talk to someone from my community who was interested in helping others. The entire process was streamlined and easy to understand, and CSBDF staff took the time to answer all my questions and explain the repayment process.”
Freelon was able to use the Fund to hire assistants to help create large-scale installation work, pay for new equipment, and conduct community workshops. “It makes me proud to represent Durham wherever I go, and I’m happy to know I live in a community that has my back through good times and uncertainty just the same.”
As a part of CSBDF’s role as the Fund administrator, the nonprofit provides technical assistance to applicants and loan recipients ensuring that entrepreneurs have the skills and resources to use the funds in a way that bolsters the long-term sustainability of the business. CSBDF also provides Fund recipients with customized assistance specific to their needs, which can include training in English and Spanish on topics like risk and financial management, disaster recovery and resiliency, marketing, and project management. This type of training can be delivered in a variety of formats, including one-on-one coaching, group seminars, webinars, and through CSBDF’s Digital Learning Academy.
“As our local businesses continue to recover from COVID-19, programs like the Opportunity Loan Fund will be more important than ever before. This vital combination of coaching, consulting, and capital not only provides entrepreneurs with working capital, but also empowers them to improve the foundational skills necessary to secure their future here in Durham,” said Andre Pettigrew, director of the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
There are still opportunities for businesses to receive financing through the program. Eligible businesses are those with fewer than 50 employees, including home-based businesses and food trucks, which are subject to additional criteria. Loans are only available to businesses with revenues up to $5 million according to their most recent tax filing.
To learn more about the Durham Small Business Opportunity Loan Fund, visit the CSBDF website or call (919) 803-1437.
About Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF)
Founded in 1990, the Carolina Small Business Development Fund is a nonprofit and certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that fosters economic development in underserved communities through access to capital, business services, and policy research. Since 2010, CSBDF has contributed more than $98 million through 1,133 loans and 1,602 grants to dedicated small business across North Carolina, helping to create or retain more than 6,600 full-time jobs.