TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Labarron Smith has co-owned and operated Empire Fitness on North Monroe Street in Tallahassee more than a month. He said his love of fitness and healthy living inspired him to start his own gym.
"It's something I've always loved and believed in, I mean my major is exercise science," said Labarron.
Despite his knowledge of health and fitness he faced a different challenge, when it came time to start his business.
He worked with the Capital City Chamber of Commerce on financial education and options that allowed him to qualify for things like a low interest rate loan.
"In your mind you just know you need money to start it up," said Smith. "When I got with the chamber they let me know that you don't have to use your own money, that's what business loans are for."
The capital city chamber of commerce is now hoping to provide the same guidance to people across Tallahassee through the Bank On Initiative.
Katrina Tuggerson, President of the Chamber, said for the past three years she's been looking at community solutions to help address poverty, finding the Bank On initiative in 2021, she met with their leadership team to bring the project to Tallahassee.
"We are allowing the financial institutions to come together as a coalition," said Tuggerson. "We will unveil our website that will have all of the resources that if this financial institution can't meet your need, then maybe you can go over here."
The Bank on initiative, also in cities nationwide like Chicago, Philadelphia and Savanna, will also focus on offering financial education to people who might not otherwise have the knowledge they need to make the best financial decisions.
The initiative will show community members the benefits of using banks for things like loans, rather than Payday loan services that can have high interest rates.
Mesha Ware who works with both the Capital City Chamber and Prime Meridian Bank.
She's helping launch the Bank on Initiative and has seen firsthand the disadvantage of turning to those payday loan services.
"What that does is it's easier access, however long term it costs the consumer more than having a banking relationship," said Ware.