A History of Helping: Longtime lending initiatives help entrepreneurs launch, expand and provide stability in the communities they help anchor.
31 Mar 2023
Awards and Recognition, Business, Economic Development, News, Business Expansion
A handful of sunflower seeds can be brushed off as bird seed or a snack to be cracked and nibbled in the bleachers at a baseball game. Like any kernel of an idea, it takes an innovator to see what others might miss. It could be a solution to a problem or a need that has gone unmet. To coax these ideas into flourishing ventures requires research, planning, financial investment, and a resilient mindset to overcome the inevitable challenges that arise.
When Smude’s Sunflower Oil launched in 2010, it was one of hundreds of regional businesses that had turned to the Initiative Foundation for loans since 1987. In its first year of lending, the Foundation provided $150,500 in loans to support entrepreneurs as they worked to build a business and diversify the local economy.
Efforts to support entrepreneurs have come a long way since then. “We partnered on nearly $4 million in lending during 2022 alone,” said Brian Voerding, vice president for inclusive entrepreneurship. Through more than 40 loans, ranging from a $3,000 microloan to a $500,000 multi-bank partnership, the Initiative Foundation lent its support to a host of new ventures and growing businesses across its 14-county service area that includes two Native nations.
Initiative Foundation gap loans are the bridge when traditional banks and credit unions are unable to cover all that a business owner might need to accomplish their
growth objectives—especially when a sizable investment is needed to take the next step. That final piece of funding can be vital to entrepreneurs who’ve already taken a big financial risk. Meanwhile, startup loans can provide the capital an entrepreneur needs to launch their dream. With the Foundation taking the risk many banks are unwilling to, the loans focus on the entrepreneur’s ability to be successful and generate revenue in their first years.
“It’s a big leap to start a business, and a big leap to keep running it,” Voerding said. “There’s nothing easy about being an entrepreneur, but we like to think our partnership helps to ease the burden.”
Here’s a look at three businesses that received early—and pivotal—loans from the Initiative Foundation and how they’ve grown since then.