Bridging the gap: Expanding access to capital for underserved businesses

Small businesses are a vital force in our economy, but it can be tough for many aspiring entrepreneurs to access the resources they need to launch and grow their operations. That’s why we’re working to promote an inclusive and supportive environment for entrepreneurs of all kinds in Cleveland.

In 2012, we staffed a coalition to help the Columbus-based Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) come to Cleveland. At the time, local microenterprises faced an estimated $38 million loan shortfall. ECDI has closed about $5 million of that gap. Now, underfunded entrepreneurs also have the attention of Cleveland’s economic development intermediaries like JumpStart, a longtime partner of the Cleveland Foundation.

Recognizing JumpStart’s intent to bring minorities into the economic mainstream, the foundation granted $400,000 in 2014 for the organization to launch a Community Development Financial Institution to support existing companies that lack access to traditional financing – particularly underserved women- and minority-owned businesses in the city. JumpStart’s work complements the ECDI, which has built its own successful track record since entering Cuyahoga County three-plus years ago. Between its arrival and January 2015, ECDI’s Cleveland office made more than $5.2 million in loans to 107 small businesses in Northeast Ohio, creating 251 jobs and retaining 267 jobs.

“ECDI brings a high-touch approach to the technical assistance it offers its loan clients, which has led to a low default rate (3.4 percent) and healthier, more sustainable businesses,” says Shilpa Kedar, the Cleveland Foundation’s program director for economic development.

This year, ECDI is diving deeper into Cleveland’s distressed neighborhoods, reinforcing its commitment to small-business owners for whom a microloan under $50,000 can be a lifeline.

These investments have real returns, for individual entrepreneurs as well as the communities they do business in. Learn more about our commitment to support local entrepreneurs and our support for economic transformation in Greater Cleveland by visiting our Cleveland Yearbook.