Local News

Small-business owners could get a helping hand

Posted February 25, 2010 5:27 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2010 7:26 p.m. EST

Have an idea for a small business but not sure where to get the funding to get it off the ground? The U.S. Small Business Administration's Community Express pilot program might be the answer.

The decade-old pilot program uses non-bank lenders to loan up to $25,000 to help qualified applicants start businesses, expand a business or take it to another level.

"We’re basically looking at cottage industries – businesses out of the home – that maybe all they need is a computer or a little bit of inventory," said SBA senior area manager Ivan Hankins.

Hankins said that, unlike bank loans, Community Express loans can be paid back over a 10-year period and require no collateral.

If a borrower is unable to pay back the loan because the business fails, the SBA works with the borrower to modify the terms.

California-based Superior Financial Group is one organization that offers the loans. About 60 percent of those who apply from the Triangle have been approved for the loans, marketing director Sue Malone said.

There are however, some criteria that automatically disqualify applicants, such as delinquent child support or owing money to the Internal Revenue Service.

About 50 people – like Courtney Tellefsen – showed up at Wake Technical Community College's Western Wake Campus in Cary Thursday to get information about the program and to apply.

Tellefsen started a produce delivery company a year ago. She is thinking about expanding but needs more capital.

John Demers and his business partners, who produce a children's TV show, also need additional funding to implement their ideas and to produce other projects.

"We just need cash," he said. "We don't need product. We don't need ideas."

And Carole Johnson needs $15,000 for her crafts business.

"I already handed in my paperwork," she said.

The SBA will hold two other information sessions next month – 6:45 p.m. on April 27 at Wake Tech's Western Wake campus and 6:45 p.m. on April 29 at the Northern Wake campus in Raleigh.