Holding the Purse Strings

Community developer helps small businesses get access to loans

Photo by Welton B. Doby III

Photo by Welton B. Doby III

Name: Lindsay Hicks
Title: Technical Assistance Officer
Company: Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF)
Education: B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Community Development, Howard University Lindsay Hicks works for a community development loan fund whose mission is to empower underserved communities and individuals in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area by providing access to capital and technical assistance to small businesses, affordable housing developers, and community organizations.

Responsibilities: Hicks’ job is to manage the client intake process, which entails researching what the potential recipient’s business is, what service/product they provide, and what technical assistance they need—whether it’s marketing visibility locally, finances, business planning, or all of the above. “Financial needs assessments are done for most all businesses,” says Hicks. “If it’s a new business we request projections and overhead costs, for example, what are the startup costs for your business on day one.” WACIF also looks at cash flow income statements and their capacity to sustain debt. “We’re looking for businesses that are going to create more jobs for D.C. residents.”

Getting the job: Hicks lost her last position, as executive director of Vinegar Hill South Main Street, when the organization lost its funding. She still had the desire to work in the unpredictable world of nonprofits, though, so she reached out to the previous organization she was working with. Through that network she found out about the vacancy at WACIF.

Strongest skills: “Communicating with the client and educating the client on what they need to do to successfully receive funding for their company.”

Biggest learning curve: “Getting used to the financial side of the nonprofit research, from a lender’s perspective,” says Hicks. Absent accounting or business experience, Hicks had to catch up on the key factors for determining access to capital, such as how much money goes into their business and how much goes out—also known as debt-to-income. As a lender she wants to ensure the client has the ability to repay, making sure WACIF is a responsible lender.

Biggest on-the-job lesson: Working with a staff of five in the nonprofit arena, Hicks has had to “be aware, adapt, and get accustomed to wearing many hats on a daily basis.”

Surprises or frustrations: “Nonprofits are underfunded; we want to give more loans but we don’t have the capacity to support every single business that deserves the assistance. There’s always a need to increase funding, and that’s for any nonprofit.” Hicks continues, “There’s a big misconception that there are all these grants to start small businesses, but usually if the business is getting a grant it’s for a very specific project.”

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