Micro Loan Programs Helping Black Female Entrepreneurs Succeed

Evelyn Hayes is the founder of Creative Expressions & Gifts in Orangeburg, South Carolina. After retiring as school teacher of 27 years, she launched her business full-time in 2010. The business is similar to a Hallmark shop except that Haye creates or personalizes almost everything herself, from flower arrangements and gift baskets to greeting cards, T-shirts and balloons. And Haye’s store sits along a rural, two-lane highway in what used to be her garage.

Hayes is the grand prize winner of the Black Enterprise Small Business University (SBU) powered by AARP. The four-week course provided advice from industry experts, Black Enterprise editors and fellow entrepreneurs on marketing, financing and investing, managing your team, upgrading your technology, finding balance, and more.

As part of her winnings, she received an all expense paid trip and free registration to attend the 19th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, hosted by Nationwide and held for a second year in a row in Columbus, Ohio. During the three-day conference, Wal-Mart hosted two 20/20 Vision Forums addressing supplier diversity: Get On The Shelf and Calling All Female Entrepreneurs: How To Gain Your Piece of the $20 Billion Contracting Pie. “Both sessions really stuck with me,” Haye says.

“I never knew you could get items on Wal-Mart shelves by going to a local Wal-Mart retailer. I always thought that is was only on a corporate, national level. It’s good to know you can go to your local store manager and present your product,” she added.

Haye would love to get her greeting card line into the retail chain. “It’s not a traditional card; it is designed to into a picture frame so that you don’t throw it away,” she explains, noting that once she was able to get first card in the line mass produced, she could introduce a package of five different designs.

Starting out, Haye used her a portion of her retirement funds as startup capital. She also was able to get a $3,000 microloan from New America, a community development organizations in the state of South Carolina. She is currently working with the group to help expand her business, including finding a commercial location in area void of traffic noise and offering easier access for pedestrians. “My main goal is to be in a position to create jobs. I’m on the road to do that,” she adds.

Here are four microloan programs aimed at helping women entrepreneurs:

ACCION International, a global nonprofit organization that supports microfinance institutions to provide financial services to low-income clients, servicing more than five million people totaling more than $9 billion in microloans. Accion helped build 63 microfinance institutions in 32 countries on four continents. Today, Accion works with an active network of 28 microfinance institutions in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. Headquartered in Boston, Accion also has offices in Washington, D.C. and a USA Network.

Grameen America, is dedicated to helping women who live in poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families. The organization offers microloans, training and support. Since opening in January 2008, Grameen America has disbursed over $109 million in microloans to over 19,000 women. Started in Jackson Heights, Queens, Grameen America has expanded within New York City and to Indianapolis, Omaha, San Francisco Bay Area, Charlotte, and Los Angeles.

Kiva, a non-profit organization and online peer-to-peer lending platform. Kiva allows people to lend money—as little as $25—via the Internet to low-income, underserved entrepreneurs in over 70 countries. Since 2005, Kiva has crowd-funded more than one million loans, totaling more than a half a billion dollars, at a repayment rate of 99%.

Opportunity Fund, a micro financing organization that serves mainly women below the poverty line in the Bay Area. The Opportunity Fund has lent more than $18 million directly to small businesses since its founding in 1995, stimulating more than $22 million in additional economic activity each year. The Opportunity Fund also provides ”micro savings accounts” for small businesses.