Michigan Women Forward, a nonprofit organization and newly designated community development fund institution, has launched a new business microloan program called the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund. The program is designed to provide financial support for women and entrepreneurs of color who face challenges in accessing capital through traditional bank loans. The program has a pool of $10 million, and it aims to assist about 400 entrepreneurs, providing them with loans up to $50,000.

Program Partners

The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund has received support from various partners, including Huntington National Bank, which invested $1.5 million; Ballmer Group, which provided a grant of $1.5 million; a State Small Business Credit Initiative federal loan participation of $1.494 million; and a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. There will also be an announcement later this year about an additional $2 million from more private funders.

The Need for the Program

The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund aims to fill the gap for those who do not qualify for loans in the traditional route through a bank or who face an economic disadvantage as women or entrepreneurs of color. Such entrepreneurs often face difficulties in accessing capital due to a lack of credit, collateral, and systemic discrimination. The program aims to address these issues and help entrepreneurs overcome the obstacles they face in accessing capital.

How to Apply

Entrepreneurs can apply for the program regardless of their business stage, from start-ups to established businesses. During the application process, businesses that are already operating are expected to provide financial history, and businesses that are starting should provide financial projections. All entrepreneurs should come with a business plan. To learn more about the program or apply for a loan, visit the program’s website at miwf.org.

Empowering Entrepreneurs of Color and Women

Empowering entrepreneurs of color and women is critical to increasing economic mobility, according to Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director of Ballmer Group Southeast Michigan. Michigan Women Forward spends time listening and understanding the challenges that entrepreneurs face as they seek capital. Last year, the organization distributed 91 loans to female-owned businesses.

The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund has the potential to help entrepreneurs who have been historically and systemically denied opportunities to grow their businesses and contribute to the economy. With the program’s financial support, entrepreneurs can access the capital they need to start and expand their businesses, driving economic growth and creating jobs in their communities.