Our Stories

The Big Power of Small Business

In honor of Small Business Saturday, we're highlighting some of the energetic local businesses that LISC capital and technical assistance have helped launch. Small-scale entrepreneurship is a key to healthy local economies and cultural life, and the lifeblood of a thriving national economy, too.

This weekend, in urban and rural communities across the country, small businesses will open their doors to their neighbors, family and friends for Small Business Saturday. A local dry cleaner will offer best wishes as a young woman picks up her suit for a job interview. Down the street, an independent grocer will happily fill a paper bag with fresh fruits and vegetables. A coffee shop owner will listen to the latest news from the neighborhood as she pours hot chocolate for one of her youngest customers. And the artist next door will help a shopper pick out a one-of-a-kind gift for someone special.

These entrepreneurs provide goods and services to residents, create jobs, nurture economic opportunity, and foster a sense of community. Roughly 57% of America’s private workforce is employed by small businesses. These enterprises sit at the heart of energetic, local economies and fuel the national economy at the same time.

That’s why it is so important to help disadvantaged places attract small businesses, and why economic development is such a critical part of LISC’s comprehensive community work. LISC steps in where mainstream financial providers can’t, providing the capital and technical expertise that entrepreneurs need to open or expand in underserved areas. We help grow local industries and jobs by helping them turn their visions into reality.

Meet some of the small business owners bringing new energy and growth to their communities.


Toledo, OH - “Black Frog Brewery”

Toledo’s Chris Harris, a military veteran, began brewing five years ago with a Mr. Beer kit and was immediately hooked. His hobby quickly turned into much more. He developed his own recipes and discovered his signature ingredient: honey malt. In 2014, Harris launched Black Frog Brewery out of his garage—the first minority-owned microbrewery in Toledo. In 2016, Harris opened his very own taproom using a loan from the Economic & Community Development Institute, a Toledo LISC partner. “Don't try and do it all by yourself,” Harris says, with the wisdom of experience. “There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you from beginning to end. I’m really surprised by how many people want to see you succeed.”


Boston, MA - “Minus the Moo” and “Lyndigo Spice”

"Our Kiva loan allowed us to prepare for wholesale distribution. It's feels good to spread the joy of eating Minus the Moo lactose-free ice cream to a broader customer base through chains like Whole Foods.” - Co-Founder Gwen Burlingame
"Thanks to the Kiva loan, I can afford to work less overtime at my other job, and spend more time focusing on my business and my family" - Owner Celeste Croxton-Tate

LISC and the crowdfunded lending organization Kiva are partnering to expand financial opportunities for underserved entrepreneurs in the United States. Through Kiva, borrowers can access 0% interest small business loans of up to $10,000. LISC Small Business is working with local LISC program offices and partner organizations to identify strong candidates for Kiva loans. That’s how businesses like Boston’s Minus the Moo and Lyndigo Spice grow their production and get their inspired goods into local and national grocers like Whole Foods. Minus the Moo, founded by college friends Gwen Burlingame and Katy Flannery, makes lactose-free ice cream for people with a sweet tooth but who are lactose intolerant. Celeste Croxton-Tate's Lyndigo Spice is a line of artisanal chutneys, relishes, fruit spreads and spice rubs.


Richmond, VA - “Jade Multicultural Salon”

Jaida Cureton used a $5,000 grant from Virginia LISC to take her hair salon in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood to the next level.  With that funding, she made a range of improvements, including new paint, another salon chair and mirrors to create an additional work station. Now, Cureton is looking to hire a new employee so she can serve more customers. “I love how in Church Hill you are part of a community,” Cureton says. “Business has been great. I received rave reviews from my customers for the changes that were made.”


Indianapolis, IN - “Mass Ave Industrial Corridor”

The Mass Ave Industrial Corridor is a legacy industrial district near downtown Indianapolis that is undergoing a revitalization. Many small manufacturers with a long history in the area are repurposing abandoned buildings and reinvigorating their businesses. Now, an influx of artisan manufacturers and makers are calling this industrial corridor home. Indianapolis LISC has supported this corridor by leading a city-wide collaboration and an overall investment of $469,000. The initiative has helped with everything from redevelopment planning to façade grants for small businesses to predevelopment, acquisition, and construction loans.


Phoenix, AZ - “World Market Bazaar”

Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses in Phoenix didn’t have the visibility they needed to grow. So this year, the International Rescue Committee and Local First Arizona, with support from LISC and the City of Phoenix, launched the bi-annual World Market Bazaar Marketplace as the first community event to highlight the city’s economic diversity. In the spring, nearly 40 refugee and immigrant vendors participated, offering their products and services to almost 2,000 local shoppers. In December, the second World Market Bazaar Marketplace will help these businesses grow their market share and show residents more of the vibrant entrepreneurship percolating in Phoenix.

Micro-businesses employ 31 million workers in the U.S.
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