While the story of Katrina in New Orleans is one of devastation, frustration and loss, in the past six years, Katrina has given New Orleans another story to tell: a tale of transformation and recovery through entrepreneurship. Each year from 2007 to 2009, 450 out of every 100,000 adults started up businesses in the New Orleans metro area, well above the national average of 320, and more than double the number six years ago.
However, despite this increase, significant barriers remain for micro-entrepreneurs and small business owners in the New Orleans area. Access to affordable capital is the most important factor limiting the establishment, expansion, and growth of small businesses, particularly for minority business owners. Most traditional financial institutions in the New Orleans area are unwilling to lend capital unless the loan is secured by collateral and their underwriting criteria typically rules out micro-businesses. Predatory lenders offer easy capital but put business owners at risk by lending at usurious rates. There are simply too few alternative ethical lenders to support the recovery and growth of small and micro-businesses.
As a loan fund which serves almost an entirely minority and low-income client base, ASII’s Micro-Entrepreneurship and Small Business Lending Program is poised to act as a catalyst to help build the city’s middle class. By expanding the flow of capital to this segment of our community, ASII facilitates job expansion, wealth preservation, and upward economic mobility. Our lending staff specializes in start-up and emerging small businesses.
Through the initial funding provided by the State of Louisiana for the Business Grant and Loan Recovery Program, our lending program has served dozens of small businesses in their efforts to recover following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Our loans range from $1,000 to $250,000. We are dedicated to serving small businesses that would otherwise be denied access to credit and capital by traditional financial institutions. Our loans tout low interest rates and low fees. Taking into consideration more than the credit score, our underwriting encompasses a holistic analysis of the business owner(s) and the operations of the business. The ASII lending team takes business lending one step further by providing financial coaching to our clients and giving them the tools needed to access credit today and for the life of their business.