Wells Fargo just gave small business owners about I billion reasons to smile. The San Francisco-based bank recently established a nationwide $1 billion loan program specifically targeting African American business owners.
“In the past we’ve looked at different market segments and noticed that African Americans have the fastest growing businesses, but we haven’t directed marketing efforts toward this particular segment,” says Effie Booker, senior vice president and community development officer at Wells Fargo. Booker says the loans will extend for the next 12 years to established African American small business owners. “The goal of this program is to reach out to that segment of people,” she says.
To qualify for funds ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 under the African American Loan Program, business owners must have been in a profitable enterprise for the previous three years; have a satisfactory personal and business credit record; have an established business bank account; and not have declared bankruptcy within the past 10 years. There are no restrictions in terms of how many employees companies must have or what they must have grossed in a previous year. Businesses must simply be “in the black”–so to speak.
It seems that Wells Fargo has something of a track record in assisting minority businesses. The bank established a $1 billion women’s loan program in 1995, which it expanded to $10 billion in 1996. The bank then created a $1 billion Latino loan program last year. The new program comes at a particularly welcome time for Steven Jones, CEO of NCLN 20, a Pleasanton, California, 911 dispatch company. Jones took out a $100,000 loan with Wells Fargo last year to keep his company afloat. This year he’s looking at further growth. “When I started this company in 1990 it was almost impossible to get a loan, so I had to slug it out on my own for four or five years,” he says. “This year I’m looking to expand my business, and another loan would provide a level of security that will let me plan well into the future.”
In a further sign that Wells Fargo is walking the walk, the bank has linked up with another African American business, NetNoir Inc., to publicize the loan program in cyberspace. “We are the gateway to this small business loan program from Wells Fargo,” says Joseph Mouzon, vice president of sales and marketing for NetNoir. By linking onto NetNoir’s site at www.netnoir.com/wellsfargo, small business owners can take a “self-test” comprised of eight questions that will help them see if they qualify for a loan.
“African Americans are one of the fastest-growing groups online and we’re proud that Wells Fargo has decided to use the Internet as an additional way to reach African American small business owners,” says E. David Ellington, CEO of NetNoir.
For additional information, you can contact the Wells Fargo African American Loan Program hotline at 888-293-5254.