ANDERSON - One of the first recipients of funding from an Anderson initiative aiming to attract entrepreneurs says the program seems "too good to be true." Anderson Now offers school loan repayment for graduates of Indiana colleges who start or relocate a business in the city. PlainSong Music Services provides music therapy and adaptive lessons for people with special needs. Owner Kirby Gilliam says the financial help will support efforts to lease a building and hire additional teachers and therapists.

Gilliam says, in addition to financial help in repaying loans, Anderson Now offers mentoring and networking opportunities. She says she will meet with other small business owners from the first cohort of recipients to share challenges and ideas. Participants will also have access to ongoing business and technical support, a coworking space and affordable housing.

Anderson Now is led by Anderson University and supported by a group of public and private organizations. It is being funded with support of a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment. The city of Anderson and a group of small businesses are also taking part in the program. When it was announced in February, organizers said the initiative would identify 10 Indiana college graduates who agree to move or start their businesses in Anderson and provide them each up to $25,000 in educational loan repayment.

"Anderson Now, they were so up front with everything, it almost sounded too good to be true," Gilliam tells Inside INdiana Business. "And then the more you get into it, it's like, you know what? Anderson Now is looking for a way to have the Anderson community be successful. That's their goal. And it's really, really neat to see that there's not some hidden agenda or something, it's just everybody's in it to do good in the community."

At the time, Anderson University President John Pistole said the program shows the school's commitment to the community it calls home.