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You make a difference. Thank you!

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On behalf of the board of directors, staff and clients of Accion, thank you to all those involved in making the 2014 Taste of Accion an overwhelming success.

November 18th was a great night. We celebrated our 20th Anniversary with nearly 350 clients, partners, and supporters who filled Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center. We shared an evening of delicious food from ten clients; energetic music from Northern Trust’s band, The Exceptions; fun pictures taken in a photo booth by our client Pic in a Box; and incredible support for small businesses and economic opportunity in Illinois and Indiana. Click here to see photos from the event!

From the podium, Stephanie Izard. Executive Chef and Owner of Girl & the Goat and Little Goat, inspired our clients as she shared her journey as a successful small business owner in Chicago. Our very own Pamela Jones of CharBoy’s moved us with her story and shared with us that she plans to be one of our first recipients of the SBA Community Advantage Loan Program through Accion. Pamela reminded us of the importance of our work in providing entrepreneurs with the support and capital they need to be successful. You can read more about Pamela below.

With your help, we raised nearly $150,000 at the 2014 Taste of Accion. For 20 years Accion has been stabilizing communities one small business at a time. Your support at this pivotal moment in our history will help us generate even more impact in economically distressed neighborhoods of Illinois and Indiana. We thank you for your commitment to Accion. We could not do our work without you.

We wish you a happy holiday with friends and family, and we look forward to all that we can accomplish together for small business owners, their families, and their communities in 2015.

Kickstart a Conewich Food Truck

Turon Cummings is passionate about quality, healthy food and excellent customer service. For 15 years, he’s dreamed about owning his own business. On a recent trip, the idea of owning a food truck materialized. “The idea first came when I was on vacation last summer at Disney World in Florida. I was looking for a snack for the family, and I came across this little boat restaurant at Hollywood studios that was selling breadcones filled with chili or meatballs.” He bought one and was so impressed with it that he immediately bought another. He inquired about the origin of the cones and built a strong relationship with their creator.

“I learned about Accion [and Seed Chicago ] from my brother who started a small business and received financing [from Accion]. I went to a mobile marketing event hosted by Accion and it was great. After that event, I dedicated all my time and efforts to doing everything that needed to be done so that I could raise money for my business.”

Check out the Creative Conecepts Kickstarter page. one of the projects featured on Seed Chicago. the City of Chicago’s curated crowdfunding page. His goal is to raise $6,500 for the purchase of a food truck or cart. Support Turon and these other inspiring entrepreneurs through Seed Chicago . And help us spread the word. You can learn more here. and follow us on Twitter with #SeedChicago.

Accion: Where To Borrow $10,000 For Your Business

Check out this article by Marc Prosser from m!

There are many business which are profitable and want to expand, but are too small to interest most banks and lending institutions. Many small businesses need only a few thousand dollars to greatly accelerate their growth. A loan of $10,000 could enable a small business to cover the deposit for a larger space, expand their product line, or hire an extra worker. Accion is a non-profit organization that specializes in working to provide microloans for small businesses, both in the United States and globally.

We recently sent Gina Harmon, CEO of Accion U.S. Network, several questions about small business loans and borrowing from Accion. Her replies were extremely informative!

What are common misconceptions that small businesses have about borrowing money from Accion? How is borrowing money from Accion different from borrowing money from a bank?

Unfortunately, many business owners come to Accion hoping for an on the spot decision. There are many places they can apply today where the promise is fast and cheap. Taking on debt isn’t a decision we make without careful consideration—it can have a very long lasting impact on the borrower. It’s our goal to provide the right size and terms of a loan—using this debt as a step to a healthier business and great choices in the future. We judge our results not on how many loans we process but on the success of the businesses we serve.

The biggest difference is our personal approach: we are advocates for their business and their success and believe the individual’s character is an asset that can help us make the right decision. Applicants are assigned a loan officer who works with them throughout the process. They’re not only helping with the document collection, they’re also providing valuable advice, creating financial statements, explaining credit reports and connecting them with community partners that will help them grow their business in a healthy way.

Are there any rules of thumb for the amount of money that a small business might be able to borrow?

There are three factors being assessed when determining if an applicant qualifies for a loan and the size of that loan.

The first is character: We like to learn about the applicant. What type of person are they? Why did they open their business? And how will the loan help them accomplish their business goals?

The second is ability to handle credit: We look into whether the applicant has had credit cards, what those limits were, and their ability to handle them well. We also look to see if they’ve ever had any type of unsecured loan and the status of that loan.

And the last are the financials: We look at past bank statements and tax filings to understand how much income is being generated and where money is being spent.

Historically speaking, our average loan size across the U.S. is $10,000.

What two or three financial ratios or numbers do you consider important? What would be a “healthy” ratio?

The coverage ratio is the most important ratio taken into consideration, and it is calculated by subtracting net expenses (business and personal expenses) from net income (business and personal income) and then dividing that by the monthly loan payment.

That ratio needs to be at least 2:1. So what if it’s not? Well that’s when we need to decrease the loan size in order to decrease the monthly payments and increase that coverage ratio.

Can you describe the different stages of a loan application and perhaps give a sample timeline for how the process could take place?

Once a client has been introduced to Accion, either electronically or in-person to one of our loan officers, they’ll start the process by filling out an application—that takes around 15 minutes. Once the application is submitted it is processed within one business day and the applicant receives either a pre-qualification or a decline.

One of the ways Accion stands apart from the rest is when an applicant receives a decline that doesn’t mean the process is over. We work with that applicant to match them to the resources and education needed to get them to a loan ready state.

For those applicants who receive a prequalification, the next step is working with a loan officer to get a very clear picture of the business needs and forward over all necessary documentation. This stage could take anywhere from a day to a few weeks depending on the applicant. Many times finding the title to a property or a mortgage note, tucked away years earlier is not the easiest thing.

Once all documents are collected, the application and documents move to underwriting. The job of the underwriters it to review everything, calculate the coverage ratio, and then determine the loan size and interest rate. This typically happens within 5 business days.

From there the applicant is presented with their loan size and interest rate, they decide whether or not they would like to take the loan, and if they choose to proceed the process concludes with dispersal.

Are there any steps that you recommend companies go through before starting the loan application process?

There are three pieces of advice I would give to potential applicants in order to prepare themselves for the loan process:

Have your bank statements and tax returns handy. It’s important that we’re able to see your income and expenses.

Have your finances in order—whether that is in the form of a ledger, a P&L statement, or other financial statements.

Start gathering all relevant documents related to your business and personal finances. The documents collected vary from applicant to applicant depending on their personal situation, however common documents collected are: two pieces of identification, proof of address in the form of a bill or a mortgage note, proof of business ownership, and complete bank statements for all bank accounts

What are common reasons for rejecting a loan application?

The most common reasons for rejecting a loan applicant are a lack of coverage for the loan, really damaged credit (meaning the applicant has significant outstanding debts), or the applicant hasn’t been completely forthcoming and honest in their application or throughout the process.

I should also mention that there are certain industries we do not lend to such as firearms, drugs/pharmaceutical, and pornography.

Does Accion specialize in certain geographies?

We lend in 49 states and have offices in 28 cities across the U.S. For more information on where we lend visit

From what you have seen, what types of businesses do banks tend not to provide loans/capital?

Typically, traditional financial institutions are constricted to whom they can lend. There are requirements related to the age of the business as well as the credit score of the business owner. Accion works closely with local banking partners to offer those individual a solution for accessing credit.

Kickstart Your Project

Whether it’s access to capital or business development support at Accion we aim to provide small business owners with every tool they need to be successful. In addition to our loan products, we now offer the Seed Chicago program, a curated Kickstarter page for the City of Chicago. Seed Chicago harnesses the power of small individual donations through Kickstarter’s online platform. Local, impactful business and community development projects are united with funders to create new jobs and economic growth in Chicago’s neighborhoods. The initiative began as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs and is a collaboration between Accion, World Business Chicago, and the City of Chicago.

Last year, 25 projects were featured on the website: This year, there will be multiple rounds of Seed Chicago projects, the first scheduled to launch on March 18 th. In this wave, you’ll see everything from a yoga studio in Austin to a plot-to-plate video series teaching Chicagoans how to grow and cook their own food.

Make a gift to one of these projects, or call us with an idea of your own.  Let’s help Chicago’s neighborhoods thrive and boost the growth of our great City.

Category: Payday loans

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