The Business Ownership Initiative in Indianapolis says it is looking to utilize the successes it saw in 2019 to further growth. A division of the Indy Chamber, BOI provides lending capital and education resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses in central Indiana. The chamber says in addition to supporting more than 40 business startups last year, BOI was also certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution.
Executive Director Rick Proctor tells Inside INdiana Business the CDFI certification is an affirmation of the initiative’s work.
“That coaching and that access to capital that has been part of BOI since its inception is the same services that we’ll continue to provide as a Community Development Financial Institution and being certified CDFI for the city of Indianapolis really important for us because it legitimizes the work that we’ve been doing,” said Proctor. “It enables us to work with some partners, other CDFIs in the city…and we can partner with them to enhance each other’s services and refer back and forth to each other. It also allows us to partner with traditional financial institutions to be able to provide access to capital perhaps to some of their own clients that are unable to qualify under their guidelines.”
Proctor says the CDFI certification creates “triple win scenarios” for small business owners. He says BOI can’t be a deposit institution for a business and there are times when a traditional financial institution can’t be a lending institution for a business, but the certification will allow everyone to work together to support the business.
“Ultimately, our goal is not that dissimilar to Develop Indy to grow the economy of central Indiana, increase jobs and so forth. Although we don’t necessarily make a headline with 1,000 jobs coming at one particular facility in that business attraction sense, we worked with over 1,000 business owners last year and if we can help each one of them, in their growth cycle, to add one more employee, we’ve accomplished the same task and arguably in a more sustainable, more diverse way.”
The chamber says BOI provided more than 10,000 hours of free business coaching and training opportunities, serving about 1,300 clients in 2019. The initiative also spent the last year shifting its focus to helping small businesses with access to capital.
“Access to capital has been cited as one of the largest barriers to growth for small businesses in Indianapolis,” said Proctor. “Through providing technical assistance and flexible lending guidelines, our goal is to get more capital into the hands of promising businesses that may not have qualified for a traditional bank loan.”
BOI says it also plans to expand its ReEntry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative, which aims to help currently or formerly-incarcerated people looking to start their own business. The effort plans to begin offering peer mentoring opportunities and lending circles for seed funding, as well as opening several new locations and a leadership academy.
“We believe that an inclusive economic development strategy begins with strengthening the small businesses in our community,” Ian Nicolini, vice president of Indianapolis economic development for the Indy Chamber, said in a news release. “Whether we’re working with a growing tech company or teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, our mission stays the same: empower business to ensure all have the opportunity to succeed.”
Proctor adds BOI plans to continue to listen to its community partners to understand the current needs of current and prospective small business owners and help them prepare for the future.
Proctor says the CDFI certification is an affirmation of the initiative’s work.