Even before the credit crunch, the smallest of small businesses had trouble getting loans.
The reasons why are many: Sometimes traditional lenders view them as too risky, or the credit profiles of the small business owners are poor. Some entrepreneurs don’t have enough collateral.
Enter microfinance companies, or micro lenders, like Congress Heights Community Training & Development Corporation, here in Ward 8. These nonprofit organizations help fill in the gap, lending money — usually no more than $35,000, but often even smaller amounts — to companies with just a few employees. And their guidelines for lending are much more flexible than the traditional banks.
Nearly half of the millions of dollars in loans from 100 micro lenders go to startups, according to data from MicroTest, a project run by the Aspen Institute’s Microenterprise Fund for Innovation Effectiveness Learning and Dissemination (FIELD).
“Micro lenders provide one-on-one assistance and training for small businesses in addition to loans,” said Tamra Thetford of FIELD. So a talented guitar repairperson that needs help with Quickbooks or an entrepreneur who wants emotional support during the launch of his or her business can get that sort of help from a micro lender.
The following 10 lenders are the largest in the country based on the number of loans disbursed in fiscal year 2009. Thetford, who is compiling a new list, said that she expects the ranking to stay pretty much the same.
These nonprofits help all kinds of businesses. Yours could be one of them.
1. Accion USA
2. Accion Texas
3. Justine Peterson Housing
4. Accion Mexico-Mexico-Colorado
5. Accion San Diego
6. Opportunity Fund
7. Accion Chicago
8. Women’s Initiative for Self Employment
9. Business Center for New Americans