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Initiative Quarterly

CDFI, SBA Grants Support Underserved Entrepreneurs

October 5, 2020

$707,000 in Awards Helps Expand Outreach, Capital Access to More of Region

The Initiative Foundation has been awarded a $557,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund and another $150,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help underserved entrepreneurs in Central Minnesota gain access to capital.

"Coming on the heels of the $7.8 million in emergency funding that we’re currently deploying in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, these dollars will provide additional resources that allow us to deliver more impact for economic recovery," said Matt Varilek, Initiative Foundation president. "Whether it's through the Enterprise Academy or our gap-lending program for regional small business, we’re going to be better equipped to help more of those entrepreneurs at a time when the needs are greater than ever."

The CDFI grant is the result of a federal program that drives investments into identified areas of need and concentrated poverty. This three-year grant will be used to increase the scope and scale of the Foundation's gap-financing and micro-lending programs.

The SBA's Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs grant, or PRIME, will support the Foundation’s Enterprise Academy program and its future expansion into the Brainerd and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe communities.

Since its launch in 2018, the Enterprise Academy has graduated about 60 students whose ventures include everything from cleaning businesses to restaurants to custom-designed clothing. Two more cohorts of the Enterprise Academy are currently under way: one in St. Cloud predominantly supporting East African and African-American students, and one in the Brainerd area for a mix of students that includes a strong contingent from the greater Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe community.

“Our goals for the Enterprise Academy program and for our gap-landing work is to help new entrepreneurs get started, help existing entrepreneurs expand and help financially disadvantaged populations gain access to the supports they need to move forward with their business idea,” said Jeff Wig, vice president for entrepreneurship for the Initiative Foundation. “Central Minnesota can’t reach its full potential until we tap the talents of all our entrepreneurs, and these generous grants from the CDFI Fund and the SBA will help to put us on the right track.”

About the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund

The CDFI Program invests in and builds the capacity of member CDFI organizations to serve low-income people and communities lacking adequate access to affordable financial products and services. For the 2020 CDFI Program year, the CDFI Fund has awarded $142.8 million in Base-Financial Assistance and Technical Assistance awards to 357 organizations in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Visit CDFIFund.gov to learn more.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit sba.gov.

About the Initiative Foundation

The Initiative Foundation’s 14-county service area includes Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright counties and the sovereign tribal nations of the Leech Lake and Mille Lacs Bands of Ojibwe. Based in Little Falls, the Foundation exists to improve the quality of life and to build stronger communities in Central Minnesota by offering business loans, nonprofit grants, leadership training and donor services through its Partner Funds programs. Since 1986, the Initiative Foundation and its Partner Funds have invested multiple millions in the region through targeted grants and business financing investments.



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