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SmartSteps microlending program helps minority, women-owned businesses

Posted at 7:13 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 19:15:53-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — There may be a thousand steps or more on the road to becoming successful business owners and Florida A&M University credit union wants to help future minority and women business owners take the very first one through the SmartSteps program.

FAMU Credit Union created the SmartSteps initiative with the Leon County Office of Economic Vitality in order to make $1 million available to women and minority business owners.

"Historically, minority and women-owned businesses face a number of obstacles, specifically one being a lack of capital, leaving them largely underserved and underrepresented," said Cristina Paredes, Office of Economic Vitality director.

The single-digit interest rates and negotiable repayment terms of the project are now direly needed as businesses struggle to grow and thrive through the challenges of COVID-19.

A study says more than 41percent of black-owned businesses had closed due to COVID-19 versus 17 percent of white-owned businesses.

Arkeba Bouie, owner of Decadent Delights is the first recipient of one of the 50-thousand dollar microloans.

"The financial challenges came about when I wasn't able to get any assistance from the federal government with the PPP through local financial institutions was not able to provide me with the funding because I was a newly established business," said Bouie.

She says she wouldn't be able to consider hiring new employees if it weren't for the additional funding.

"I'm very grateful for FAMU for allowing me to be one of the recipients to receive the funding so that I can further my business," said Bouie.

Partners for the program also include organizations like the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce the Greater Tallahassee Chamber Commerce.