Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
LiftFund, a San Antonio-based financial and business support service organization, celebrated Wednesday its success of providing a total of $250 million in microloans to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The nonprofit was founded in San Antonio as Accion Texas in 1994 and has grown steadily into one of the largest microlenders in the United States, with 106 employees and more than 18,000 loans distributed to a diverse range of businesses in 13 states.
“[This milestone] is important because of the impact we make on the community,” said Chief Credit Officer Nelly Rojas-Moreno, who has been with LiftFund for 17 years.
“It’s not just another investment," she said. "We know the impact that it makes on the individuals we are helping and on their entire families.”
LiftFund has made a mission of providing capital and support to new and emerging companies, especially those with credit scores too low for commercial banks, and has maintained a successful repayment rate of 96%.
The company's strategy, based in compassion as much as logic, aims at positively impacting families and communities that surround small businesses. More than half of LiftFund’s clients are Hispanic, 24% are black, and 17% are white. Thirty-eight percent of clients are women, and in 2015, 66% of borrowers reported low-to-moderate income levels, according to LiftFund's 2017 first-quarter impact report. Thanks to the nonprofit, many small operations have gained the momentum necessary to be financially stable and self-sufficient.
“One of the main reasons I joined [LiftFund] is that I am inspired by our customers and their dedication to their businesses and their dreams. I’m inspired by their success,” said Rojas-Moreno, noting the organization’s delivery on its commitment to helping women- and minority-owned businesses.
With almost $40 million in active loans, LiftFund’s economic impact is considerable. In 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, small business owners supported by LiftFund created 2,262 new jobs, and of the $104 million loaned between 2010 and 2015, every dollar grew to $13.21 in economic activity, totaling $1.4 billion in output, according to LiftFund's 2010-2015 economic impact study.
That economic activity makes a tangible difference when it circulates within small business communities, where borrowers experience an average increase in sales growth of 72.9%. On average, after three loans, LiftFund entrepreneurs increase take-home income by 44% and every $50,000 loaned creates about six jobs, according to the company's website.
In addition to loans, in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, LiftFund provided 5,989 hours of technical assistance to borrowers and non-borrowers, helping small businesses develop the financial skills necessary for independent success. LiftFund provides business-support services through satellite organizations such as Launch SA and the Women’s Business Center at the Central Library, the Wells Fargo Business Launch Center, and LiftOff, a co-working space on the city's Southeast side.
“Working with someone from the beginning, helping them launch their business, then growing along with them, and helping them evolve so they can becoming independent and continue to provide for their families and provide jobs within their communities,” said Martha Zurita, LiftFund’s vice president of communications.
“We use the word 'dream' a lot, but it’s accurate.”
Overall, LiftFund clients have achieved a 74% success rate, compared to an overall small business survival rate of just 30%. LiftFund’s combination of guidance and capital has proven effective for strengthening businesses and the communities they support.
“We’re very excited about [the future],” Rojas-Moreno said. “We know we are positioned to continue to grow. There are still a lot of entrepreneurs that don’t have access to capital, and we want to bridge that gap.
“But most importantly, we want the community to know we are dedicated to serving them. We always have the understanding that even though we’re doing business loans, its really about people.”