January 4, 2021

 

By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow

 

On December 8th, 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury announced the recipients of $180.3M from its Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). These 2021 fiscal year awards are intended to help community development financial institutions expand their lending and investment activities in the communities they serve. 2021 saw the CDFI Fund disperse funds to 265 CDFIs nationally, ten in the state of Georgia. These CDFIs are Albany Community Together (Albany), Camilla Bancshares (Camilla), Carver Financial Corporation (Savannah), Columbus Housing Initiative (Columbus), Community Housing Capital Inc (Decatur), Community Redevelopment Loan & Investment Fund (Atlanta), Habitat for Humanity of Georgia (Columbus), NewTown Loans (Macon), South Georgia Bank Holding Company (Tifton), Southeast First National Bank (Summerville). All told, these CDFIs received $4.7M from the CDFI Fund.

The CDFI Fund has many grant and loan programs. The programs that were relevant in the state of Georgia were Base Financial Assistance (BASE-FA), Persistent Poverty Counties Financial Assistance (PPC-FA), Disability Financial Assistance (DF-FA), and Technical Financial Assistance (TA). BASE-FA awards require matching funds from non-federal sources. They are intended to be used by organizations for lending capital, loan loss reserves, capital reserves, financial services, development of services, and expanding operations, serving new target populations, and geographic expansion. Base-FA made up most of the funding distributed to Georgia CDFIs in 2021.

2021 saw the CDFI Fund diversify its funding in Georgia geographically. In 2020, Atlanta-metro based organizations made up 40% of the CDFIs that received funding. In 2021, that number dropped to 20%. South Georgia Bank Holding Company and Carver Financial Corporation were standouts. Carver led the way in funding with awards totaling $976,530. It was the lone organization to receive Disability Financial Assistance (D-FA). 2022 will present Georgia’s CDFIs with new opportunities and challenges.

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The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative is committed to connecting social entrepreneurs, CDFIs, investors, and the greater community through storytelling and events. If you or your organization would like to be profiled by or get involved with GSIC please email us at [email protected].

December 6, 2021

 

By: Kayla Jones, GSIC Social Impact Fellow

 

Q&A: The following is a Q&A with Kayla Jones, a Social Impact Fellow for the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) and GoATL Fund, and Brian Goebel, a GSIC board member and Managing Director of the GBS Business and Society Institute.

 

Kayla (GSIC): Brian, can you tell us a bit about your role as the Managing Director of Goizueta’s Business and Society Institute?

Brian (GBS):  The ‘Business and Society Institute’ is a new name and elevated commitment. We got a gift from the Goizueta Foundation that allowed us to move from a center to an institute and build on the work we’ve been doing for ten years. The Business and Society Institute, in a nutshell, is a research center within Emory’s Goizueta Business School that works to address complex challenges confronting businesses, people, and the planet.

We look at that in two ways – one being through academic discovery and the other being purposeful action. It is critically important to ask questions and deep dive into answering those questions. Historic academic research hasn’t dug deeply into business and society – why things are the way they are, some of the existing barriers, and the solutions to the current problems. The purposeful action component of our work is a twofold process where we take the research, see the opportunity and challenge, and apply a program to it.

For example, we looked at issues of inequity when it comes to small business support in places that are lower income in the United States. That’s where our microbusiness development program, Start: Me, comes in. We decided to take on the challenge by delivering a 14-week program that helps entrepreneurs get established and build wealth. Since 2013, we’ve had over 300 businesses go through the program. It’s been powerful to see those businesses start with a small idea – with someone running their business nights and weekends – to seeing their goods on a shelf at a major retailer. We’re proud to be a part of the work and be a supportive resource for entrepreneurs.

We also saw that issue with the way markets work around coffee. People ask, “Why do you guys work in specialty coffee?” It’s because coffee is one of the biggest commodities globally, and a lot of people underestimate how big coffee is. But the structure of the market, with transparency issues and the impact of colonialism, has led to farmers being under-supported and unfairly paid. So, we’re looking to solve that issue with data, transparency and pushing the industry to be better. We look at how we can help women growers who have been historically shut out from some of the biggest business opportunities to build wealth for themselves and their families. Like Start Me, we run a program called Grounds for Empowerment that helps farmers develop their business skills in addition to their farming skills.

Lastly, we support amazing students. Business school students today are not only looking for traditional experiences. They want to learn about accounting and marketing, but they also want to know how they can be positive, principled leaders, and solve these problems around equity and climate, for example. They are interested in creating strong democracy in business, too. So, we teach many classes and offer unique experiences for students to prepare them to move forward to address many of the complex challenges we’re facing.

 

Kayla (GSIC): Spring 2022 will offer the most social impact classes ever at GBS. Can you speak to the journey it took to get from starting as a center to becoming an institute offering a robust curriculum for students?

Brian (GBS): It’s exciting to know that the social enterprise center at Goizueta was built off one class in the spring of 2009, with about 22 people in it. Today, we offer a robust slate of courses, engaging 300 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It’s quite the change in 10 years, and I think it shows a huge amount of interest in social impact.

Impact investing continues to be an area we’ve had a lot of classes in, and we will continue to offer them. It’s also been exciting to have professors like Erika Hall join our Institute in the last year. She does amazing research on discrimination, bias, and how that impacts individuals and organizations. She’ll be teaching a new class called Bias in the Workplace in the spring, which we’re excited to offer for the first time.

In addition to some of our impact investing classes, we also offer experiential courses. Our Grounds for Empowerment directed study allows our students to support growers in Latin America. Students help build business plans, marketing strategies and think through the small seed investments that can help their businesses most. Additionally, we have a class called Philanthropy Lab, which I co-teach with Tene Taylor from the Kendeda Fund, a tremendously talented professional practitioner in the world of philanthropy. Together, we teach people how to leverage philanthropy to make a difference and close equity gaps in the city of Atlanta.

Next, B-Corps Lab is a directed study where students work with B-Local Georgia and for-profit companies that want to pursue B-Corp certification. We help them with their initial assessment and roadmap to becoming a B-corp.

We offer some of these classes as part of the new diversity, equity, and inclusion concentration at GBS. Collectively, I think these experiences help people become principled leaders with proximity and insight to problems they’ll be able to positively contribute to once they graduate.

 

Kayla (GSIC): You were recently on a panel with the Emory Business Ethics and Emory Impact Investing Group which focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Can you talk about why more corporations are looking at their impact on society and choosing to operate differently than they have in the past?

Brian (GBS): Yes, sure. It was great to be with panelists like Dr. Tjuan Dogan, CSR lead at Coursera, a benefit corporation that provides education and technology resources, and one of our Start:Me entrepreneurs Mary Ellen Sheehan, founder of Royal Thanaka, an ethically-sourced health and beauty brand inspired by ancient Burmese beauty rituals.

The panel was around ESG, or environmental, social, and governance, and how its movement in the business community has progressed, specifically over the last 12 to 24 months. ESG fits right into the business school because it’s about how your business operates with intention – how is it reporting and holding itself to account? How is your company not only committed to making a profit, but how is your company committed to its employees, vendors, the community around it, and the environment?

These are ‘hot topics’ and are covered in different ways in the business school and business world. Some of it is connected to accounting, marketing, storytelling, and much of it is related to supply chain and operations. I think ESG is a place where many of those dots are being connected. Business leaders are expected to know about it and implement strategies around it. Our conversation focused on where we are in the ESG movement and some things that companies need to do better to be authentic in their commitment to environment, social and governance.

 

Kayla (GSIC): So, for someone that is new to social impact work, what’s something that you would want them to know, or something you’ve learned throughout your career that might inspire people to get involved?

Brian (GBS): A couple of the things I always talk about is not letting perfect get in the way of good. Leaning toward taking purposeful action is important, and so is being a changemaker wherever you sit. There’s a false narrative that says you can only make a difference by being at a nonprofit or if 100% of your job is connected to direct social or environmental impact. The reality is that we all play change-making roles. We all have influence. We use the word “just” a lot and might say, “I’m just an entry-level employee,” or “I’m just a middle manager.” The word “just” needs to be flipped so that each person has influence in their own space to inspire, ask questions, and influence change. I encourage people to act where they can and create change where possible.

I also encourage people to get proximate to understanding what problems people face. Many people have good intentions and want to jump in to help, but a tremendous first step of being an effective and responsible changemaker is really understanding. Understanding the issues and challenges by getting proximate to those living through those challenges. Being a good listener and open to building relationships with people that are probably outside of some of the traditional relationships that you’ve developed through where you’ve grown up or went to school. Openness, learning, understanding history and the complexity of challenges, and acting on them in ways you can. These are some things that come to mind for me when I speak with students and others who want to get more actively involved in making an impact.

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December 4, 2021

 

By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow

 

Women and diverse-led companies are reshaping the small business landscape. In the United States, 17 percent of Black women are in the process of starting a new business, according to recent research from Harvard Business Review. That statistic is compared to just 15 percent of white men and 10 percent of white women who are currently starting a business. Despite this, only three percent of Black women are running mature businesses. That significant drop-off speaks to the resource challenges Black women founders face in launching and maintaining successful companies. 

These challenges have been compounded further for Black women-owned businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on women in the workforce and the industries where Black-women businesses typically thrive including retail, restaurants, etc. 

Atlanta based entrepreneur Njeri Warfield is hoping to change the landscape for women and diverse-led companies while providing more opportunities in the commercial real estate industry. Her development firm SkyRise Property Group seeks to partner with nontraditional, diverse-led investors, public entities, and corporations on commercial development projects with a specific focus on reimagining land and industrial spaces throughout metro Atlanta. Warfield’s greater mission is to help Black women, and people of color, discover a path to financial wellness through commercial investment while simultaneously bringing amenities to historically under-resourced communities.

“There are so many of these underutilized spaces already in existence in communities that need more amenities and resources,” said Warfield. “SkyRise Property Group is committed to providing the destination for opportunity. With a keen eye for up-and-coming communities in the metro area, we develop commercial spaces designed to provide resources for working professionals across a host of business industries.” 

One example of this mission in action is the Jonesboro Office Suites building, which Warfield developed and opened earlier this year  to provide critical office space for entrepreneurs in the local area who needed to expand beyond the footprint of their home office, but were conscious about affordability. The 6,000 sq ft space offers a variety of suite options ranging from 128 – 1200 sq ft. Offices range in price from $425 – $1500.

“The business owners of the Jonesboro Office Suites are entrepreneurs who have been working hard to get their companies off the ground and are at an inflection point in their growth,” said Warfield. “They represent a range of industries from insurance to mental health services, to media companies and more. Nearly 80 percent of the companies located here are Black women-owned or diverse-led.”

SkyRise aims to remove barriers for first-time and nontraditional investors to the commercial real estate industry through several key steps:

  • Each relationship is developed individually and each investor is walked through a presentation to explain the investment process and what types of investments SkyRise focuses on. 
  • To get prepared for their first project, SkyRise holds several one-on-one meetings with potential investors to walk them through the investment process, project types, partnership opportunities (minimum investments, maximum investments and legal representations), financial structures and potential returns. 
  • When a project is identified, each investor attends an informational webinar about the project, how the asset will be purchased, how the project is positioned in the market to be profitable, and what types of investors the deal can allow. The informational session also includes anticipated returns through the life of the project (typically 3-5 years). If the investor chooses to move forward with the project, then are invited to subscribe to the investment and are connected to SkyRise’s legal team to confirm their eligibility. 
  • SkyRise makes a concerted effort to understand each person’s investment goals, timelines, and sources for funding. Not all projects will lend themselves to lower initial investments, so SkyRise makes sure each investor understands their legal investment limits and the certification process. 

Along with these efforts, Warfield and SkyRise Property Group plan to create more workspaces in addition to the Jonesboro Office Suites, including a business incubator to serve as an education and networking resource for the local community. The business incubator would provide entrepreneurs with a series of year-long training courses and mentorship on the full business cycle — from “How to incorporate an entity and create a marketing plan” to “Developing an exit strategy (i.e. selling the business or a succession plan).” SkyRise would partner with the local government for the business incubator to create a pipeline with local high schools and colleges to provide similar training to students to bolster entrepreneurship and small business development in the local economy. 

This facility will also serve as a networking hub for new and growing businesses. Both tenants of the space and interested business owners will be able to participate in the incubator programs and have the opportunity to attend networking events held inside the facility hosted by business entities and associations.  

 

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To connect with the SkyRise team or for further information, please email [email protected]

 

 

 

November 12, 2021

 

By: Donte Miller, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

November 8, 2021

 

Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) is a Georgia 501(c)(3) nonprofit and community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides capital, coaching, & connections to help borrowers create & grow businesses.

Small Business Assistance Corporation (SBAC) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that invests in new, existing and expanding businesses that have created or retained jobs, providing a positive economic impact within their community.

Georgia Power Foundation is a Georgia 501(c)(3) private foundation, and the charitable arm of Georgia Power Company.  The foundation focuses on improving education equity, environment and empowering communities across Georgia.

 

Partnership History: The Georgia Small Business Capital Fund was capitalized during the height of the pandemic in 2020 when three (3) CDFIs from across Georgia – Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), Small Business Assistance Corporation (SBAC) and Albany Community Together! (ACT!) – had a conversation with Georgia Power Foundation about ways that they could collectively make an impact at scale across the state. Between the three CDFI partners, they touch or represent all 152 counties in Georgia.

Georgia Power Foundation made a $500,000 state-wide investment into the Georgia Small Business Capital Fund to enable $1 million in lending and technical support to 75 small businesses, and operational support to the three (3) aforementioned CDFIs, catalyzing collective impact for over 1,000 small businesses in Georgia. Sixty eight (68) percent of these investments supported minority and women-owned small businesses, and the entire investment supported underserved communities and populations.

 

Q&A: The following is a Q&A with Sydney Hulebak, Director of the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC); Rita Breen, Executive Director of the Georgia Power Foundation (GPF); Martina Edwards, Chief of Strategic Partnerships for Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) and Victoria Saxton, Chief Financial Officer for Small Business Assistance Corporation (SBAC).

 

Sydney (GSIC): Rita, can you share a little bit about Georgia Power Foundation’s history in funding CDFIs and CDFI capacity across Georgia?

Rita (GPF): Georgia Power Foundation supported ACE for a number of years, and they really helped us see how effective and impactful a CDFI can be in a community. Our funding footprint is statewide, and knowing that when you move outside of Metro Atlanta, funding and funders become more scarce, we saw this as an opportunity to further explore the CDFI ecosystem across Georgia.

Our foundation focuses on education, environment and empowering communities – and part of empowering communities is empowering small businesses. When diverse small businesses thrive, they create wealth for the owner(s) and also create jobs for others in the community.

Sydney (GSIC): Why did Georgia Power Foundation decide to support a coalition like the Georgia Small Business Capital Fund as opposed to funding each CDFI independently?

Rita (GPF): There were two main reasons: 1) geography – we wanted to bolster diverse, small businesses across the entire state and 2) partnership – we encourage nonprofits to partner, share dollars, resources and best practices to amplify impact.

The Georgia Power Foundation and Georgia Power’s Community and Economic Development conducted a joint virtual listening tour with local and national funds and non-profits. When we learned about the Georgia Small Business Capital Fund, we were excited because these three CDFIs were already working together with a formed fund that just hadn’t been utilized yet. Funding a coalition of support across the state presented a chance to foster greater impact and matched our mission to work across urban and rural Georgia.

Sydney (GSIC): Many foundations begin their impact investing journeys by considering program-related investments (PRIs) into local CDFIs. Rita, can you share why Georgia Power Foundation favored capacity-building grants and how those grant dollars helped the CDFIs leverage additional capital?

Rita (GPF): During COVID we learned that CDFIs had a great opportunity to access lending capital through PPP and other federal dollars. We also discovered that CDFIs did not have the funding required for the human capital needed to administer a larger loan portfolio as well as to provide more technical services to small businesses in crisis due to the pandemic.

We listened to those needs and encouraged fund partners to leverage the unrestricted dollars we provided in a way that allowed each CDFI to best deploy dollars into the community.

Additionally, due to the challenges COVID presented for small businesses, the CDFIs shared with us that the entrepreneurs they worked with needed more technical assistance, training and consulting, which also pointed to the need for grant dollars to support capacity and optimize the loan portfolios.

Ultimately, this arrangement made sense for the outcomes that were best for the CDFIs and Georgia’s communities.

Sydney (GSIC): Martina and Victoria, can you both speak to the value of receiving unrestricted grant dollars in partnership with those investment dollars, and how this example of Georgia Power Foundation’s support of the Georgia Small Business Capital Fund can serve as a case study for other impact-oriented funders?

Martina (ACE): The funding from Georgia Power Foundation’s grant was instrumental in bringing these three CDFI partners together, allowing each of us to reach our respective markets in a way we felt would best suit businesses that needed help on the ground.

For ACE, that is Metro Atlanta and rural north Georgia. While the pandemic has cut across all of these counties, resources in communities are not created equal. The flexible capital provided by Georgia Power Foundation allowed each of us to utilize those dollars in different ways based on client needs. ACE, for instance, used our $165,000 to create a cash reserve, allowing us to draw down additional capital from the Small Business Association (SBA), which requires a 15% reserve as a risk mitigant.

This grant also helped build up our capacity. For example, in 2019, we made 91 loans totaling $13.1 million, which was a breakout year for ACE. Then, the pandemic hit, and we saw 400% more loan clients in 2020 representing just over $25 million in lending.

Despite all this growth, we had the same size team. This pool of dollars allowed us to draw down more lending dollars and use other grant capital for capacity building on both the human capital and infrastructure side. Between 2020 and 2021, ACE hired fourteen (14) additional staff members so that we could continue to not just serve as a lender, but also provide the wraparound services – coaching and connections – that differentiate CDFIs from banks. We were also able to hire four (4) financial advisors on our business advisory team to work with every single loan client, providing guidance on how to pivot their business models to ensure they emerged from the pandemic more resilient than before.

Victoria (SBAC): SBAC found ourselves in a similar situation to ACE. We were used to doing 60 loans a year, but once the pandemic hit, we saw a 100+ increase. In order for SBAC to continue our model of providing advisory services in addition to lending for all borrowers – regardless of whether it was a $10,000 loan or a $10 million loan – we needed unrestricted capital.

CDFIs tend to get a lot of federal dollars; however, these tend to come with a specific purpose and required output attached. With unrestricted capital, we have the ability to leverage that capital where we see the greatest need for both lending and internal operations.

For SBAC, that meant bringing on new staff. This is often a challenge for CDFIs because we tend to compete with banks for talent. While the services we offer and time spent with clients is typically the same for both CDFIs and traditional lenders, nonprofit CDFIs often work more with small-dollar clients, making it so that we have a smaller budget to attract talent.

And the right talent is important for our portfolio management given the business advisory services we offer that help the small businesses we support thrive. This includes a variety of scholarships and training programs that you often don’t find when working with a banking partner.

Martina (ACE):  Leveraging this flexible capital looked so different for each party involved. As mentioned, ACE used it for a cash reserve and SBAC was able to use a portion for operations. However, our third CDFI partner, Albany Community Together! (ACT!), utilized the grant dollars for innovative flexible capital, focusing on small businesses in hard hit sectors like the medical industry.

Despite the attention on healthcare, many medical businesses, particularly those that focused on elective surgeries, had to close or had a customer base that was too fearful to come in for services during COVID. ACT! created a pool of dollars for debt payment relief, allowing those businesses the opportunity to move forward unanchored by debt obligations and focus instead on how to respond once mandates were lifted. This included paying for some of the protective mechanisms that allowed customers to comfortably re-enter their doors.

In addition, internally, CDFI margins were squeezed during the early pandemic. CDFI earnings traditionally come from their loan products. However, during COVID, many offered PPP, providing 1% loans to clients, even though our cost of capital was not less than 1%. Therefore, CDFIs had to determine how to offer PPP and still have a sustainable business model.

Funders like Georgia Power Foundation stood in this gap with us as we leveraged other options like credit enhancements and interest rate buydowns. Unrestricted grants like this served as a subsidy in this low interest rate environment, allowing CDFIs to continue to offer competitively low rates to clients while managing cost of capital, which helped with the squeeze of earnings and net interest margins.

Sydney (GSIC): Martina and Victoria, can either of you share more about the typical client that a CDFI serves in Georgia, and why their needs were compounded during COVID?

Martina (ACE): As a CDFI, we can lend to anyone, but each organization in this collaborative focuses on diverse, low to moderate income, women-owned businesses. And we know that these communities, especially in rural areas, have been more challenged when you layer on the health crisis of the pandemic. This is due to the fact that these business owners are already operating on smaller, thinner margins and have more limited access to credit given the institutionalized policies that limit the ability of BIPOC (Black and indigenous people of color) individuals to gain access to capital or create wealth in the first place.

Sweet Joy Ice Cream Bar, LLC based in Lawrenceville, Georgia is an example of an ACE client.

 

Sydney (GSIC): In many ways, CDFIs are the original impact investor. And, right now, they are undergoing a moment of national attention and increased funding. Given that the work of CDFIs will continue to be important beyond COVID recovery, what does it look like for you all to have the support you need in the long-run and how can impact investors be a part of the conversation?

Victoria (SBAC): If a small business owner can’t get to a bank, CDFIs are still the only option for capital access aside from hard money lenders that require outrageous interest rates. So, it is great that CDFIs are getting more attention and that more potential partners better understand what we do and what we can provide.

SBAC is now being approached by colleges and universities, and even new development authorities are reaching out to collaborate. These entities don’t have the ability to do lending and compliance and are looking to CDFIs to perform these operations. However, for CDFIs like ours to operate at the desired output required by these partners while still building intentional communities across the state, we need impact-oriented investors.

Impact investors can help bring lending capital to the table, as well as provide operating grants to grow both staffing and technology in a way that allows us to continue to increase capacity and deliver good customer service to clients. SBAC considers itself a high tech and a high touch organization. If you contact us, we want to ensure that you are connected with a live person that can determine how best to meet your needs.

Impact investment and accompanying unrestricted grant capital can serve as a bridge to help CDFIs meet this continuous need across Georgia moving forward.

Martina (ACE): Agreed. Impact investing is helping to increase the innovative and proven strategies of CDFIs. ACE is in its 21st year and we have a track record of great work that has only continued to accelerate in this time period. And we are like a small business ourselves. As we grow and scale, we encounter new pain points. Flexible capital provides us with the capacity to invest back in our organization while providing visibility to the small business owners on the ground doing their work. With this in mind, a pairing of both unrestricted grant capital for operations and PRI investments for greater lending creates a successful recipe for CDFIs.

It is helpful for impact investors to understand that CDFIs can be a solution for impact investing while also providing reliable returns from a PRI perspective, which is a great way to continue to do good.

CDFIs create collective prosperity through the fact that underserved business owners are able to get the support they need to grow their assets, grow their businesses and increase their overall revenue, which in turn, allows them to hire more people. This job creation is an economic opportunity for Georgia, providing more families with financial stability and leading to healthier and thriving communities.

Sydney (GSIC): Rita, do you have any advice for foundations that have never worked with intermediaries like CDFIs before? How should they consider getting started?

Rita (GPF): The trend in philanthropy has been to report on impact/ROI, which best lends itself to funding programs.  However, as funders during an unprecedented time, we need to listen, collaborate and be supportive of nonprofit partners’ needs. If we help our CDFI partners accomplish their objectives of serving small, diverse businesses, we also achieve our goals.

Sydney (GSIC): Finally, Rita, has Georgia Power Foundation’s investment in this collaborative inspired you to look at more investments in CDFIs? What does this mean for your strategy moving forward?

Rita (GPF): Strategically, since this investment in mid-2020, Georgia Power, along with the Georgia Power Foundation, has committed to invest $87 million throughout 2021-25 to continue advancing racial equity and social justice efforts in Georgia. This funding will support initiatives focused on education equity, criminal justice equity, economic empowerment, and energy justice.

This coalition of three CDFIs – ACE, SBAC and ACT! – exceeded our expectations, which was very encouraging for us as a funder. It was exciting to see what they did to support over one thousand diverse small businesses across the state. That type of result makes us want to do more, and we have.  Georgia Power Foundation has funded additional CDFIs, including some outside of this coalition. We have seen how powerful these investments can be for economic empowerment and look forward to continuing our support of diverse small businesses.

 

October 29, 2021

 

By Mandy Eidson, Senior Manager, ANDP Loan Fund

 

In 2014, a report by the Carsey School of Public Policy highlighted how Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, had “stepped into the breach” in the wake of the 2008 foreclosure crisis by providing financial products and services to groups that were being underserved by mainstream lenders. In spite of the challenging economic climate, CDFIs extended credit to high-poverty, low-income, and minority borrowers at rates much higher than conventional lenders, and even grew as an industry at a time when many banks were faltering or shutting their doors completely. 

Today, over a year and a half after COVID-19 hit the U.S. with full force – disrupting people’s everyday routines and business operations – a similar story appears to be unfolding. In the pandemic’s aftermath, CDFIs have stepped up where traditional banks have withdrawn, propelled by a growing tide of support from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Bipartisan support for the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund has mushroomed, leading to new and increased funding opportunities, while groups as diverse as Starbucks, Google, Wells Fargo, and Twitter have made pledges to the CDFI industry – leading some to call this a “watershed moment” for CDFIs nationwide. Local and national foundations have also deepened their engagement, including the Healthcare Georgia Foundation’s recent commitments to groups like ANDP, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, and Carver State Bank

This outpouring of support is fueling CDFIs to do what they do best: deliver innovative, flexible, high-touch financial products and services to those who need them most. Since the pandemic, CDFIs have delivered more than $7.5 billion in PPP loans to small businesses and have continued to outperform expectations by growing their loan portfolios, minimizing delinquencies and defaults, and increasing their earnings. With low-income residents and people of color comprising the majority of CDFI beneficiaries, CDFIs are reaching groups that have been most severely impacted by the pandemic’s immediate and longer-term impacts. 

The Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) has been fortunate to benefit from the recent groundswell of support for CDFIs. ANDP’s CDFI Loan Fund, which provides financing for developers of affordable and mixed-income housing, is on track to grow its total assets from $10 million to over $16 million thanks to recent commitments from Renasant Bank, Woodforest Bank, the CDFI Fund, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Opportunity Finance Network’s Finance Justice Fund. With support from its CDFI partner Reinvestment Fund, ANDP anticipates approving $5 million or more in new lending by year-end for affordable single-family and multi-family housing, with a focus on serving minority-owned developers and communities of color. Growing its Loan Fund is part of ANDP’s five-year plan to create or preserve at least 2,000 units of affordable housing in metro Atlanta, where the COVID pandemic has exacerbated existing housing disparities, affordability challenges, and growing homeownership and wealth gaps.

Urban Oasis Development is one of the many minority-led developers supported with project financing by the ANDP Loan Fund. As stated by Joel Dixon, Principal of Urban Oasis: “Access to capital remains a significant hurdle for black-owned businesses like Urban Oasis Development. While everyone continues to do surveys and studies about the problem, ANDP’s loans have been a great example of just doing the simple SOLUTION right now by providing lower cost loans and providing small minority developers a launchpad. We can do the rest!”

 

In Georgia, despite the recent influx in federal funding there is a strong need for new and sustainable capital and capacity-building sources for CDFIs. Ever since the U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund was first established in 1994, Georgia has been chronically underserved by CDFI investments, with Georgia-based CDFIs in the bottom quartile for CDFI Fund Financial Assistance grants received per capita. Although Georgia’s CDFI ecosystem has grown in recent years through new entrants; collaborations such as the CDFI Coalition Revolving Fund; and increased membership of CDFIs in the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, Georgia’s CDFIs need greater support to meet the growing needs of impoverished residents and neighborhoods across our state. 

If there’s been one silver lining of the COVID pandemic, it’s that the important work of serving underfinanced and under-resourced communities is now clearer than ever. With ongoing support from mission-driven investors, CDFIs can and will continue to chip away at the credit needs and related disparities facing our region’s most vulnerable residents and communities. CDFIs have done it before, and they’ll do it again; the question is, who will join us?

 

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ABOUT ANDP: 

Established in 1991, ANDP is a leading advocate for the development and preservation of affordable housing in the greater metropolitan Atlanta region. The ANDP Loan Fund provides predevelopment, acquisition, construction, and bridge financing to nonprofit and for-profit housing developers of affordable housing, mixed-income, and mixed-use developments.

Since inception, The ANDP Loan Fund has loaned over $52 million to help finance more than 6,000 units of affordable or mixed-income single-family and multi-family housing. The majority of funded units target families earning 80% of Area Median Income or less, providing a tremendous opportunity to uplift low– and moderate-income families.

For a description of Georgia-based CDFIs and their missions, services, goals, and needs, click here.

 

September 21, 2021

 

Asha Owens, is one of 50 founders selected for Google for Startups program focused on high potential startups from Black entrepreneurs based in the U.S. 

BestFit, Inc., an early-stage startup addressing basic needs insecurity among college students, today announced it was selected to join the second cohort of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, a $10 million initiative designed for Black founders, who are building great companies yet are often locked out of access to the funding that is critical to their success. 

Last year, Google for Startups gave 76 Black-led startups up to $100,000 in non-dilutive funding, helping them keep their doors open, pay their employees, and focus on building their businesses. With this second $5 million investment in the U.S. Black Founders Fund, 50 more founders across the United States will receive $100,000 in non-dilutive capital, meaning founders do not give up any ownership in their company in exchange for funding. The fund also includes technical support from tools and teams across Google, including as much as $120,000 in donated search Ads from Google.org and up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits. Last year, founders who received awards went on to raise more than $50M in capital and 80% of recipients used the funding to create jobs. 

BestFit, an online platform where college students connect with basic need resources, like food, tech, and housing, is one of a select few high potential startups that the Google for Startups team has selected for this year’s nationwide cohort. 

“After participating in Google for Startups’ Founder Academy, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to apply for the Black Founders Fund. Google’s curriculum, guidance and mentorship made a huge difference in the trajectory of our company and helped us craft a stronger business strategy, improve our operations, and increase revenue,” says Asha Owens, founder, BestFit. “This support from Google for Startups comes at a critical time for our growth—allowing us to make key hires and critical product improvements. Ultimately, this enables us to scale our work in the wake of COVID-19 and ensure that thousands of students have access to programs, services, and benefits that will help them meet their academic goals, graduate, and go on to create generational wealth.” 

“The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund embodies our mission of helping underrepresented founders grow their businesses. We are excited to continue the fund and contribute funding to Black founders, with no strings attached. Black founders currently receive less than 1 percent of total VC funding,” says Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups US. “We heard loud and clear from the 2020 fund recipients that Google for Startups and Goodie Nation have been crucial to their success not only through funding, but through community, mentorship, network connections and technical expertise.” 

“Our advisors will be working with the founders to discuss business pain points, offer introductions to customers and investors and provide regular therapy sessions and forums to support recipients emotionally and professionally,” says Joey Womack, CEO of Goodie Nation.

BestFit uses behavioral science, cognitive science, and equity-centered design to create products that remove the burden of finding help for college students. We provide technology to colleges & nonprofits looking to address basic needs insecurity on campus and in their communities, and we work with mission-driven companies looking to create sustainable, scalable social impact. In the coming months, our goal is to increase the number of social services and programs our platform screens for, expand our network of college and nonprofit customers, and engage more corporate clients. 

 

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ABOUT BESTFIT 

BestFit is on a mission to remove non-academic barriers for students at risk of dropping out because they cannot afford to meet their basic needs like, tech, housing, and food. We empower students to build their own support systems by connecting them to on-campus, community, philanthropic, and corporate resources. In 2021 alone, we’ve connected Georgia college students to over $100,000 in tech resources and helped students determine their eligibility for ~$500,000 in benefits and social services. The team’s nationally-recognized work is funded by organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars, and Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta. To learn more, please visit best-fit.app

ABOUT GOOGLE FOR STARTUPS 

Google for Startups works to level the playing field for startup founders and communities to succeed by bringing the best of Google’s products, connections, and best practices to startups. Paired with a deep commitment to create diverse startup communities, many of our offerings are designed specifically to provide underrepresented founders with access to resources and opportunities. We support startups everywhere to build something better. Because when startups succeed, we all succeed.

September 7, 2021

 

As the demand for locally grown food increases, one local organic farm is stepping up to provide the supply. Love is Love Farm, a 13-year-old organic farm serving the metro Atlanta area, has converted to a worker-owned cooperative and is scaling up operations to grow produce for institutional buyers such as Common Market SE, Emory University and Georgia Tech. The farm will also provide produce to individuals through their Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), as well as grow flowers and vegetable seedlings for home gardeners.

To date, few local organic farms have been able to scale up to supply both institutional and individual customers. There are three dominant barriers to scaling a farm operation: 1) access to skilled labor, 2) affordable land near markets and 3) capital for infrastructure and equipment. Love is Love Cooperative Farm is addressing these challenges with some innovative approaches and partnerships.

By converting to a worker-owned cooperative structure, the farm is able to coalesce a group of experienced farmers to share in the risks, rewards and work-load and to create opportunities in the future for additional farmers to join. Officially formed in 2020, Love is Love Cooperative Farm is the vision and work of five farmers: Demetrius Milling, Monica Ponce, Russell Honderd, Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds. It is a unique collective of first generation farmers: multigenerational, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-class who understand that they are stronger working together to grow food, plants and flowers at scale for wholesale markets and direct to consumers. The group hopes to on-board new worker-owners as soon as 2025. Through the planning and conversion process, the group worked closely with the Georgia Cooperative Development Center to develop their legal and governance structures.

Love is Love Cooperative Farm is the first farm in the nation to participate in The Conservation Fund’s Working Farms Fund. This program assists farmers in gaining access to affordable farmland near markets. The farmers worked with The Working Farms Fund to identify and acquire a farm site that suited the farm’s needs — 70 acres in Newton County, Ga. The farmers will lease land for five years during which time the farmland is put under permanent conservation and the farmers are able to operationalize the new farm. At the end of the five years the farmers purchase the permanently conserved land at a significant discount. 

With challenges of affordable land and the skilled labor addressed, the farmers are now offering preferred shares in the Co-op to help raise the necessary capital for startup — everything from seeds to tractors to greenhouses. Using the Invest Georgia Exemption, the farmers are selling shares to Georgia Residents with up to 8% in annual dividends..  

Through these creative new approaches and innovative programs and partnerships, the worker-owners of Love is Love Cooperative Farm envision that they are not only standing up a resilient, equitable, worker-owned cooperative farm to provide produce, plants and flowers to major Metro Atlanta Markets; but they also may be creating solutions useful to other farms that want to scale operations to serve growing markets. Together with their shareholders, The Conservation Fund and The Georgia Cooperative Development Center, the Love is Love Cooperative Farmers intend to build a structure and system that will outlast any one individual and serve our local food- and eco- systems for generations to come.  

To learn more about Love is Love Cooperative Farm, becoming a shareholder or their upcoming plant sales and CSA sessions, visit their website.

 

Contact:

Judith Winfrey

404-964-5233

[email protected]

 

Photo credits: Addison Hill Photography

Imagine being able to invest in a diverse portfolio of residential real estate properties around Atlanta’s rapidly growing market that not only delivers a great return, but also empowers the people in the properties that you’re invested in to improve their lives, both financially and personally. Atlanta-based ROOTS Real Estate Exchange Fund is the first commercially motivated, community inspired Real Estate Investment Fund that focuses on investing in people through properties, not the other way around. 

ROOTS, formed in 2020 by a team of local, experienced industry experts and established executives, offers its members a residential real estate investment opportunity that is delivering excellent returns and creating new found wealth for the people who create those returns; the residents. As Daniel Dorfman, Root’s Founder says “The residents paying the rent are the ones actually paying the bills and generating the income. Don’t they deserve a seat at the table?”.

For now, Roots is a fund for “accredited investors” who want to invest with their hearts, as well as their wallets. By early next year, the fund expects to be able to allow “non-accredited” investors to participate as well, INCLUDING THE RESIDENTS who rent the properties. Until then, they’ve created very unique way for the residents to participate and build equity from the very first day they move in. 

 

 

“How does that work?”:

Roots’ exclusive “Live in it like you own it” program invites residents to treat the property as if it were their own. In exchange, the resident earns interest on their security deposit, and rental rebates for taking care of the property and fulfilling the partnership guidelines.

By doing so, their security deposit becomes a savings account that earns 5% interest as long as they live there. They will also receive rental rebates ranging between $50-$100/month that go into their ROOTS savings account, which also accrues 5% compounding interest throughout their rent cycle. 

A recent report by Prosperity Now shows that on average, a renter in the state of Georgia has only $650 in the bank. They are living on the edge of homelessness. They are one issue with their car or one medical issue not covered by insurance away from not being able to pay rent. These are working people, who are trying to succeed and making a good effort, but are stuck in the grind of living day to day, month to month. Until now, they have had very little chance of building a cushion of savings, much less owning real estate. They have both when they rent with Roots. Additionally, the Roots Member Platform will be providing additional benefits to the resident members like personal financial education courses, leveraged pricing on things like internet, cell phones, health insurance and more. 

ROOTS provides its residents the opportunity to not only make money, but to learn to save it; and eventually to invest it. 

For investors, this shift in making the resident a partner, rather than just another “tenant” is a big win as well. It helps to protect the asset, minimize turnover costs and lower vacancy rates. A few notable highlights about the fund:

  • ROOTS focuses on single and multi-family properties in growing communities throughout the city of Atlanta that will achieve healthy rental returns and have promising appreciation outlooks. 
  • All properties go into the fund fully curated and tenanted, so the return on investment is already established.
  • The properties are not subject to maintenance and repair costs, those are covered by the Managing Partners, which allows for even more consistent returns

Visit www.investwithroots.com or email the team at [email protected] to learn more about ROOTS.

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name(s): Steven & Hannah Simms
  • Venture Name: The Rural Urban Connection (TRUC)
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Local Food, Regenerative Agriculture, Rural Economic Development
  • Business Stage: Startup in July 2020
  • Business Type: For-Profit, Holistic Management
  • Headquarters: Dunwoody, Georgia

 

The Issue

Worldwide, soils have been degraded by poor farming practices causing heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to prop up crop yields. A large amount of grain crops grown are used for feeding livestock. Most beef consumed is raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with a host of negative animal welfare and environmental impacts. 100% grass-fed beef eliminates the need for CAFOs and grain-fed livestock. Using holistic management practices on our farms will eliminate the need for chemical supports while enabling the environment to create new topsoil and capture carbon in the soil. We are only able to do this with the support of our Atlanta neighbors who want to eat our healthy, local, 100% grass-fed beef.  

 

Your Journey

Steven grew up on one of the farms we lease and has discussed this idea off and on for some time. COVID’s impact on the economy and food supply chains inspired me to start testing and pursuing this idea seriously. We have been blessed with great advice from the UGA Small Business Development Center and Start It Up Georgia, as well as from family and friends.

In April 2021, 9 months after beginning planning and researching efforts, we had our first beef ready for sale. We leased two farms, secured USDA financing, and began selling online and at the Dunwoody and Sandy Springs Farmers Markets. We are currently working on getting the word out about our local, grass-fed beef, balancing supply and demand, and moving both farms to fully regenerative agricultural practices. Our steaks have been incredibly popular, and right now we are looking for consumers and a few select restaurant and food truck clients who want to use all the cuts from our beef.

As we mature and grow, we want to scale our business to be able to create more healthy soils, preserve farmland, and raise delicious grass-fed beef all while providing quality employment opportunities.

 

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

The Social Impact Ecosystem is crucial for encouraging more social entrepreneurship in Georgia. Building connections between the Social Impact Ecosystem and the traditional startup ecosystem may be one of the most important elements in this journey. Many new entrepreneurs may not classify themselves as social enterprises but have the desire and intent to grow a company that focuses on more than the financial bottom line. All companies have a social impact and our goal as social impact community members should be to encourage all companies to ensure this impact is positive and build a better future.

 

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