Experience an asset when applying for small business loans, executive says

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Customers considered high-risk are specialty of ACCION.

By V.L. Roberson

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Experience through internships or previous jobs can help individuals obtain loans to start a business, the CEO of Lift Fund said March 19 during a presentation for Women’s History Month.

Lift Fund, formerly known as ACCION, is a community development corporation that helps small businesses obtain loans, Janie Barrera explained.

A person applying for a startup with no experience in what is being proposed, or no “skin in the game,” Barrera’s term for collateral, is likely to be turned away, she said.

Barrera spoke to an audience of about 15 in the faculty and staff lounge in Loftin Student Center about available capital for business.

“The average credit score of one of our customers is 580. The cutoff at a bank is 680,” Barrera said. “These are loans the banks cannot make due to regulations.”

Lift Fund’s mission is to provide credit services to small businesses and entrepreneurs who don’t have access to loans from commercial sources.

“We level the playing field, helping women and minority small business owners and startups with limited access to capital have a chance to live their dreams, she said.

“Most of our clients make two to three loans with us and then graduate to the big banks,” Barrera said.

“We have disbursed over $140 million and have a 97 percent repayment rate,” Barrera said. “The people that the banks consider high risk we’ve been able to lend to and get our money back.

“We mitigate risk now by developing relationships with our customers, providing technical assistance pre- and post-loan,” Barrera said.

Lift Fund has resources to encourage prospective customers to do the work by learning and planning for the business they want and then providing the funding needed.

“We make loans from $500 to $250,000 depending on the cycle of the business,” she said.

As a Community Development Financial Institution, Lift Fund is certified by the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which provides funds through a variety of programs.

The CDFI fund promotes economic revitalization in distressed communities by providing financial assistance and information to community development financial institutions.

“We become a team with the customer,” Barrera said.

Lift Fund has a business support team that partners with the customer to provide help finding customers, managing cash flow, setting up a legal structure, getting started and planning for growth.

Support is available through individual consultation sessions in person, online or via the telephone. Networking events, educational seminars, webinars live and recorded according to the website.

Lift Fund also works with the Small Business Administration and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses.

This program provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings.

For more information, log on to www.liftfund.com/about/services.

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