Starting a conversation about a business idea can be a daunting task. If you add on to this a lack of experience in business, and a lack of knowledge of how U.S. loans and banking works, the mountain can seem too high to climb. These barriers are what inspired our Community Navigator network and the SBA Vermont District Office to develop a different kind of information event: Lunch with Lenders.
February was the perfect opportunity to invite business owners and potential business owners, lenders, and business support service providers to come together to celebrate Black History Month and to talk about access to funding. More than 40 people gathered on Feb 11, 2023 to explore Vermont’s traditional commercial lending and banking options as well as non-traditional lending through revolving loans and community capital organizations. Thanks to CNPP partner Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO), seven language communities were supported with community interpreters – some of whom were taking notes for their own business ideas.
“By meeting in small groups and talking over a shared meal, the intimidating process of meeting with lenders became vibrant conversation with new friends,” commented Sara Munro who represented VtSBDC as Program Coordinator for the Community Navigator Pilot Program. “Participants were encouraged to share their experience with the lending process, and to ask questions that will help them take the next steps toward accessing capital for their startups and existing businesses.”
The event was hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO,) and the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC). Traditional and non-traditional lenders were available for questions including Community Capital of VT, Opportunities Credit Union, and Vermont Community Loan Fund. Supporters of the event were M&T Bank, NEFCU, Key Bank, Northfield Savings Bank, and TD Bank.
This event is part of the Community Navigator Pilot Program with the Vermont Small Business Development Center and nine Vermont non-profit organizations and funded in part through a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Learn more at www.vtsbdc.org/find-cnpp/.