The Southern Reparations Loan Fund makes business loans to cooperatively owned businesses anchored in the most marginalized Southern communities. We especially focus our lending toward start-ups and expansions of democratically-governed enterprises that meet the needs and elevate the quality of life of African Americans, immigrants, and poor whites. Our goal is to nurture the development of businesses that maximize community benefit, rather than the narrow concept of maximizing profit.
As part of of our commitment to the most marginalized communities, we target our lending to projects that other lenders might consider “un-bankable,” because they are too small, not adequately collateralized, or, though profitable, not “profitable enough.” Operating from a principle of “radical inclusivity,” SRLF is interested in projects that are based on sound business ideas that meet real community needs, businesses built by people who know how to work together to get good things accomplished—regardless of their individual “credit-worthiness.” If SRLF does its job according to its mission, the vast majority of our loans will go to poor people who have a direct personal and community-wide stake in building an inclusive economy that is democratic, just, and sustainable.
What is a cooperatively-owned business?
While there is a broad range of types of cooperatively-owned businesses, we define one as a business that is democratically owned, controlled, and dedicated to the benefit of its members. Its members can be the workers, producers, consumers, or the community at large.
How do I know if my business “maximizes community benefit”?
Community benefit is different from case to case, but can include the creation of jobs, filling a community need, or a broader environmental/social impact.
Our Lending Process
Think you might be interested in applying for a loan? Email us to set up a time to talk.
What documents or materials will we need to submit to be considered for a loan?
Like any other loan fund, we like to look at business plans, revenue projections, project budgets, and historical financials (if applicable). Unlike many other loan funds, if you don’t have these documents, we still want to talk to you! If you meet our other eligibility criteria, we can help you put these together. Don’t hesitate to contact us.
How do you decide to accept or deny my application?
As long as your project meets our basic criteria of geography, target communities, business structure, and community impact, it’s unlikely that the application will be denied. However, many projects may successfully achieve all these criteria and still not be considered “loan-ready”. This means that we will work with the project on steps to achieve loan-readiness before a loan is agreed upon. This process takes time, and we’d like to be in communication with you as soon as we can to get a plan in place.
SRLF mitigates the risk associated with lending to non-traditional borrowers by partnering businesses with technical support provided by proven co-op business developers, who work side-by-side with owners to provide help in such areas as market analysis, feasibility studies, financial projections, and business planning. In many cases, lending will occur in stages, between cycles of technical support designed to help co-ops move the next step of readiness to make productive use of loan funds.
We view a loan to your project as an investment: we succeed if you succeed. As such, we work with the organizations of the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, organizations outside the region, and existing cooperatives to help provide valuable experience, industry expertise, and technical assistance to borrowers. All projects are assessed and connected to appropriate partners to ensure “loan readiness” and eventual business solvency.