An Ethiopian restaurant in Mount Kisco. A hockey store in Yorktown. A therapy program for autistic Westchester children. A wine store in Chappaqua. These businesses can all thank Community Capital New York for helping fund their success. The Hawthorne-based nonprofit alternative-lending organization, which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, “assists business owners or prospective business owners who have a solid plan for their business but just aren’t bankable yet,” explains Kim Jacobs, Community Capital’s executive director.
Most companies it funds are startups, which have a notoriously difficult time securing bank financing. And Community Capital also handles a large volume of loans for groups that are traditionally less likely to be eligible for bank loans, like women- and minority-owned businesses.
How do they do it? Community Capital offers Hudson Valley businesses micro-loans of up to $50,000, and also helps them secure coaching, technical assistance, and other important business connections. Since the loans are high-risk, Community Capital carefully vets each prospective borrower, making sure the business plan and vision is strong, and that taking on more debt is the right answer. “We don’t just make the loan, cross our fingers, and hope the payment comes in each month,” Jacobs says.
Since 2003, when Community Capital began offering small-business loans (the nonprofit originally was created to provide gap financing for affordable housing, something it still does), it has lent some $2 million, created almost 400 jobs, and assisted nearly 150 businesses throughout the Hudson Valley.
It’s an impressive track record, considering the work is largely done by three people: Jacobs; Business Development Manager Holly Perlowitz; and Small Business Loan Associate Simone Obermaier. It also operates via a stressful business model: Unlike banks, which use deposits from their branches as loan capital, Community Capital must raise money itself to fund its loan loss reserves. (It does so through donors—the US Treasury’s Federal Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and money from New York State’s economic development arm, Empire State Development.)
But to Jacobs, Community Capital’s formula creates a win-win for everyone involved. “To be able to help make entrepreneurs’ dreams and passions come true is really exciting,” she says. “And these new ventures create jobs, help to revitalize Main Streets, generate tax revenues, and create community stakeholders.”