Truist Foundation announced a $1.5 million grant that will allow the nonprofit Urban Strategies to launch a small business loan fund, which will be used in part to support women- and minority-owned businesses in Baltimore.
Urban Strategies, a national nonprofit that focuses on the design and implementation of human capital development strategies specifically in communities undergoing revitalization efforts, will use the funding to support and expand its community development financial institution (CDFI). The grant will enable the organization to create a pathway to capital and wealth creation for women-, Black-, Latinx- and Indigenous-owned small businesses in a number of cities across the Eastern Seaboard, including Baltimore.
The grant will also support small minority-owned businesses working to engage in community revitalization in Norfolk, Virginia, and Fort Myers, Florida. Businesses receive an average loan of $250,000.
Urban Strategies CEO Esther Shin said that the nonprofit was largely community-facing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that it became important for her company to find solutions that combated the struggles families were experiencing while working to decrease the racial wage gap, going beyond merely linking families with a living wage.
Shin said the partnership with the Truist Foundation allows her company’s CDFI to grow and serve more small businesses, specifically for underserved communities. Shin said that the money goes to support capital and human capital, while also providing wrap-around services to support small business owners as Urban Strategies seeks to create generational wealth and combat wealth inequalities.
Lynette Bell, Truist Foundation president, said she values partnerships with CDFIs because of their recognition of the complex ecosystems for small businesses, and the emphasis on building resilience for businesses to allow them to have the skills and resources to sustain growth when faced with economic disruptions and challenges.
The grant from Truist will also allow the nonprofit to establish an equitable loan fund and application system for historically excluded communities, and to create financial technical assistance to enhance training efforts. The new CDFI will also seek to grant underserved communities the credit, knowledge, and tools to grow and sustain their businesses while simultaneously contributing to community revitalization.
Urban Strategies’ CDFI has been in operation for a few years, but the Truist Foundation’s grant will enable the company to provide resources for more small businesses. The CDFI initially focused on construction businesses given the obstacles small business owners of color face as they look to enter the space, but Shin said the company has now expanded to looking at other businesses based on community needs.
Organizations like Urban Strategies have knowledge of and proximity to the communities they work with, allowing them to work closely and collaboratively with small businesses — a factor that Bell said influenced the foundation’s decision to work with the nonprofit.
Shin said her own background as an immigrant and the child of small business owners granted her an understanding of the importance of these resources and having a network of support to allow business growth.
Bell said she has confidence in Urban Strategies’ ability to combat inequity and work to help business owners achieve a level of economic liberation and change the wealth trajectory for minority communities.
Shin said a metric for success for the CDFI is businesses’ ability to meet individual goals and stand on their own, while impacting neighborhood and community growth with small businesses acting as anchors to creating economic success on an individual and community level.