Janice Rojas is the Marketing & Communications Director at Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF). For Small Business Week, CSBDF weighs in on leveraging local partnerships to increase impact with small business borrowers.
At CSBDF, we value true partnerships and collaborate with others who share our vision to help small businesses succeed. By leveraging the combined strengths of each partner, we are able to achieve a level of impact that could not be accomplished independently. We believe that by working together, we can set new standards for small business owners in underserved communities who face barriers in accessing capital. By identifying key service areas we have achieved partnerships that help us work toward mutual goals.
HBCU Initiative & Partnership:
In 2014, our President/CEO had a vision to partner with North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to increase our mutual impact in the communities we serve. What began as an internship program, to more actively engage young people of color in our work, has over the years grown to more formal partnerships with HBCUs to expand access to entrepreneurial training and capital in our communities.
The contours of each partnership reflect the needs in each community—whether through a training program, entrepreneurship center, loan fund, or another vehicle to deliver services and resources.
In January 2017, we realized the results of one of our partnerships when we launched the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) in southeast Raleigh as a partnership with Shaw University.
Many in underserved communities face unique barriers to start and grow a business, whether high growth or small. The southeast Raleigh area, in particular, has long faced economic challenges and a lack of resources to support local entrepreneurship. The IEC was established to inspire, encourage and support nascent and existing entrepreneurs who are traditionally underrepresented at existing incubators and underserved by traditional lenders.
The IEC provides programming for early-stage and business skills training followed by access to affordable capital. In addition, custom technical assistance is provided to ensure entrepreneurs stay on track with their business goals.
This also engages Shaw University students by extending opportunities for entrepreneurial and business classes and hands-on learning. The IEC provides four primary functions: collaboration space for workshops and trainings; incubation for entrepreneurs to work on their ventures; creative space to showcase work by local artists; and space for social, networking and business events.
Recognizing the need to help the veteran small business community, Bunker Labs and CSBDF collaborated with a mission to develop innovative solutions for veteran entrepreneurs, provide training, resources, and access to capital.
More than 200,000 service members leave active duty each year, and a quarter of them express interest in starting their own business. Following World War II, forty-nine percent of veterans started their own business after returning home.
The partnership between Bunker Labs and CSBDF aims to boost entrepreneurship by creating economic opportunities for the veteran business community.
This unique partnership combines the expertise of two organizations aspiring to strengthen economic development for veterans across the state. Looking to expand this program, CSBDF collaborated with JPMorgan Chase & Co., which committed more than $1 million to CSBDF. With this generous contribution, access to capital for veteran-owned small businesses in the Carolinas and Florida will expand.
Since launching its veteran entrepreneurship program in 2013, CSBDF has provided over $8.2 million in small business loans to military veterans, helping to create and retain over 300 jobs.
Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Partnerships:
In North Carolina, women-owned businesses are thirty-six percent of all firms, and they generate $124 billion in revenues and $24 billion in annual payroll. Among very small businesses, those with less than 20 employees, women make up sixteen-percent of businesses. This is a significant sector of the state’s economy.
In September 2017, CSBDF announced our new funding from the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, a program powered by Bank of America that allows us to expand access to capital and technical assistance to women entrepreneurs.
Under this program, eligible female business owners would receive a two-percent reduction in the interest rate of their approved loans (details on the program can be found here). Thanks to this partnership, CSBDF has continued to serve women entrepreneurs with a special program made specifically for their business needs.
To strengthen our efforts, CSBDF opened the Eastern Women’s Entrepreneurship Center (EWEC), in collaboration with Elizabeth City State University, an HBCU in Elizabeth City. Like our women’s business center in Asheville, NC, the EWBC provides training, coaching and technical assistance to entrepreneurs in northeastern NC. With their focus on women, they will help reduce the barriers women face and enable them to succeed.
We launched Coastal Women’s Ventures in partnership with the YWCA Lower Cape Fear, based in Wilmington, NC. This key partnership supports business opportunities for women through coaching, education, and access to capital.
As CSBDF’s efforts make an impact in the lives of small business owners, we continue to intentionally look for ways to expand our efforts and serve entrepreneurs and small businesses that foster our economy.
We're proud of our trusted network of partners and consider them one of our greatest strengths. Our partners choose to work with us so that together we can enhance our programs, leverage expertise and local ties, and achieve a greater impact.