Most entrepreneurs have a hard time getting loans from banks. It’s a big problem for all founders, but especially those from marginalized communities.
That’s why, several years ago, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation formed its Direct Capitalization Loan Fund, which aims to expand the loan pools available to small businesses in Kansas City, Kauffman’s hometown, as well as nationally, and boost access to capital in disinvested communities.
The fund just announced its third award—a $5.3 million grant to DreamSpring, an Albuquerque-based Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). DreamSpring also received $300,000 in funding to help it deploy the funds in Kansas City. “This partnership is aimed at helping to bridge funding gaps and nurture an environment where small businesses, particularly those owned by people from historically underserved populations, can grow their businesses and flourish,” says Anne Haines, president and CEO of DreamSpring.
Kauffman is focusing on CDFIs in large part because of their track record funding enterprises that can’t find bank funding. “They have alternative ways to assess the trustworthiness of a business,” says Shakia Webb, program manager, entrepreneurship. For example, CDFIs might review an entrepreneur’s track record of paying a variety of bills in a timely fashion that banks won’t include in their underwriting.
DreamSpring’s average loan size is $13,500, with a focus on BIPOC, women, startup, and low-to-moderate income small business owners. But it makes loans as low as $200 on up to about $2 million. Smaller loans might require repayment in a few months, while bigger ones have three to five year repayment terms.
According to Haines, over the next five years, the initial capital from Kauffman will be continuously recycled as loans to other small businesses. Ultimately, that will result in DreamSpring deploying about $140 million in capital.
With the additional $300,000 in funding, DreamSpring has hired its first loan officer in Kansas City. It’s also building out other capabilities to provide on-the-ground service and support in the area.
Akil Cooper, who heads a one-year-old signage and printing company in the Kansas City region just received $7,500 in funding that he’s using to buy a CNC milling machine, target bigger customers and expand his business. Eventually, he wants to purchase more industrial-size equipment.
Kauffman has already made previous funding awards to two CDFIs—$5.3 million to AltCap in December 2021 and $3.3 million to Holy Rosary Credit Union in June 2022. For now, according to Webb, Kauffman is pausing on making any more awards. “We want to observe the performance of the three CDFIs we’ve funded, so as we move forward, we have some historic numbers to go on,” she says.