Over the last 6 months the Promise Zone Small & Emerging Business Working Group has piloted a lending and technical assistance (TA) program targeting business and property owners on Lancaster Avenue and 52nd Street. This has involved close collaboration with many partners, including Community Development Financial Institutions (which provides loans to small businesses), Commercial Corridor Managers, and the Philadelphia Department of Commerce.
These partners are working to make it easier for people to take advantage of Department of Commerce programs that support business owners. Two key programs are the Storefront Improvement Program (SIP), which helps business and property owners improve the front of their buildings, and In-Store, which helps people purchase equipment and materials they need to set up or expand a business. The Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) has partnered with The Enterprise Center (TEC) to create a bridge-loan fund helping businesses to renovate their store facades and interiors. Other partners in the Small Business Working Group have also committed their support. Several more Community Development Financial Institutions — Entrepreneur Works, West Philly Financial Services Institute, Finanta, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), and Women’s Opportunity Resource Center (WORC) — are all taking part. With funds newly committed, the goal became connecting businesses to lenders and TA-providers through the Small Business Working Group. Below are snapshots of two businesses and their experiences in the program.
Deborah Butler has owned Deb’s Little Shepherds, a daycare at 128 N. 52nd Street, for 13 years. In December of 2015, TEC’s Commercial Corridor Manager, Akeem Dixon, met Deborah to discuss her lending-project interests. These included façade improvements, interior renovations, and debt resolution. In January Deborah met a representative from PIDC to develop a comprehensive loan package. But Deborah, considering the scope of the proposed projects, opted to pull back and renovate her façade through Commerce’s SIP program first. Since then, Deborah has worked with TEC and Commerce to complete her SIP application, which was finalized and submitted to the Design Review Committee in March. On April 21st, Deborah completed her loan application for TEC’s bridge loan. This marks the program’s first completion, from technical assistance to loan application.
Christian Anderson, like Deborah, is interested in renovating his façade through SIP; but with the introduction of additional lenders and interests he decided to pursue another priority: purchasing property. Chris owns “Tha Shop on the Strip,” a 4-yearold barber shop at 257 S. 52nd Street. He has considered investing in his business, but has been reluctant. Yet Chris was motivated by the potential for a loan, and hired an accountant that TEC referred to help improve his bookkeeping. Chris purchased accounting software, and soon met Finanta, which provides loans that can help a business owner purchase property. Now, in April, Chris is pulling together application materials for a Finanta loan. He’s applied and been accepted to TEC’s small business incubator, “ELevate.” He has said in meetings, “I want to do business better.”
Every business is unique, with its own challenges and strengths. 17 business and property owners have entered the program. In the course of 6 months, 4 have applied for SIP. Partners in the Promise Zone Small and Emerging Business Working Group hope this is just the beginning.