University City

Foundation to help small-business entrepreneurs

A nonprofit plans to lend about $500,000 over the next year to Charlotte-area entrepreneurs who want to start or expand a small business.

The Michael Scott Mater Foundation's Green Micro Loan program provides loans for working capital, equipment and supplies, software, minor renovations and other uses.

The foundation also provides financial training, technical assistance, coaching and mentoring. Conservation also is a focus of training.

Training starts in June for applicants seeking loans of $1,000 to $50,000, said Jesus Quispe, the foundation's co-founder and a board member.

The average loan amount is expected to be about $9,000.

"It's for everyone who really needs that help during this economic crunch," said Quispe.

The Michael Scott Mater Foundation is a charitable organization with loan programs in Iraq and Peru. It opened a Charlotte office about a year ago.

A partnership with Accion USA is allowing the foundation to step up its lending in Charlotte, said Amanda Breeden, the foundation's vice president of community and corporate relations.

Accion USA has provided more than $119 million and more than 19,000 microloans since it began operations in 1991.

Its goal is to help people work their way out of poverty by establishing and expanding small businesses and strengthening the communities they serve.

Interest rates for the foundation's loans are expected to range from 8 percent to 15 percent. The average term is about three years for a $9,000 loan, Breeden said.

"With unemployment remaining stubbornly high, we're seeing an increase in the number of people looking to start their own businesses," said Brad Richardson, Charlotte's economic development manager. "Having a small microloan of several thousand dollars is something that could help them get over the initial startup hurdles."

Charlotte School of Law is one of the foundation's partners locally. It will provide interns to help with legal contracts and documents for starting a business.

Interns from UNC Charlotte will offer counseling, coaching and mentoring.

"We need to ensure that they are loan-ready and the business becomes sustainable," Quispe said.