Our Stories

In Praise (and Support) of Small Business

Forget Thanksgiving and Black Friday (jk!): one of our favorite days of the year is Small Business Saturday, a time to shop local and take stock of the imperative role that entrepreneurs play in energizing community economies and cultures, creating jobs and fueling the country's economic engine as a whole. Read on to learn about how we've supported small businesses this year, and to check out some of our favorite small biz stories.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: small businesses are integral to the health of communities and the economy. A recent report, in fact, shows that they account for 44 percent of all U.S. economic activity and create two-thirds of new jobs. They also drive innovation and competitiveness. They provide goods and services to local places and enliven corridors and neighborhoods.  

This year, LISC intensified its commitment to small business development, specifically to women- and minority-owned enterprises in communities where we work—with the goal of sparking wealth-building for families and job creation in areas of persistent poverty. The businesses we serve are those often deemed too risky, too uncollateralized, too small, by traditional lenders—but who nevertheless have enormous potential to be successful.

Our national lending team, for its part, has closed or approved nearly 50 loans for economic development projects this year alone, totalling $91 million. A portion of that figure makes up small business loans, or loans that directly and indirectly nurture small entrepreneurship.

And our new SBA 7a lending subsidiary, immito, is off and running. In 2019, immito has made nearly $6 million in loans to entrepreneurs who don’t fit conventional financing parameters.

These numbers are important because they translate into real opportunity, for real people.

Our partners, too, have invested to support LISC’s lending, grants and technical assistance to small business at unprecedented levels. Over the past two years, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation has brought nearly $6.5 million to the table via its Entrepreneurs of Color fund and other grants, enabling us to provide loans and business assistance for entrepreneurs in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis. And those initiatives are growing.

Wells Fargo, meanwhile, contributed nearly $4 million in grants and an EQ2 through its Diverse Community Capital initiative to fund emerging entrepreneurs of color. Another $1 million helps fund our microlending collaboration with KIVA and other efforts to support entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico as they recover and build resiliency in the long wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. LISC’s KIVA match program has capitalized more than $400,000 in total microloans to 59 borrowers this year alone, half of whom are growing or launching businesses in Puerto Rico. Fifth Third Bank, meanwhile, has been a robust partner offering grants and loans to LISC small business and economic development initiatives.

And that’s just for starters. Of course, these numbers are only important because they translate into real opportunity, for real people. And an imperative part of that opportunity, in addition to the loans and grants, is the technical support and financial coaching that can make the difference between a business that succeeds, and one that doesn’t. The stories that follow show how all of this plays out in the lives of residents and partners who understand that small business is a really big deal.

The Beauty of Small Business, in Chicago’s Largest Latino Neighborhood

In celebration of Latino entrepreneurship, we shared the story of Lulu Medina, owner of Salon LaRouge in Chicago and a tireless advocate for emerging small businesses in her community.

“Small Business Is Personal for Us”: Q&A with Julie Huston, CEO of immito

In 2018, LISC launched its newest subsidiary, the SBA-guaranteed lender immito, to scale our ability to reach and support underserved small businesses and help spur job growth across the country. Julie Huston, immito’s founding president, is a seasoned small business expert—in fact, she recently testified before Congress re: new budget proposals that would hamper small business entrepreneurs’ access to credit (watch her here). We caught up with Huston at her base in Denver to learn more about immito, the economic and social power of small business, and why all this is so close to Huston’s heart.

The Enduring—and Enterprising—Heritage of Detroit’s Mexicantown

We are shined a spotlight on Detroit's nearly 100-year-old Mexicantown neighborhood, where residents and entrepreneurs who trace their roots to Mexico and other parts of Latin America have kept culture and small business alive and well through the city's highs and lows.

Constructing Resilience, Two Years After María: Q&A with Javier Zapata-Rodríguez

The deputy director of economic development for PathStone Corporation and a LISC Rubinger Fellow, Javier E. Zapata-Rodríguez has an insider's view on how the fallout from hurricane Maria has shaped economic development in Puerto Rico, the imperative of supporting small business on the island, and how Puerto Ricans have galvanized to build resiliency for themselves, two years after the megastorm made landfall.

See more stories from
visit the local office's website
Explore the LISC local offices involved in this story.