Hello Alice, a fintech helping small businesses access capital, and entrepreneurship ecosystem Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) created a $70 million Equitable Access Fund designed to bridge the financing gap experienced by women and BIPOC-owned founders.
“There’s an estimated $40 billion gap among the BIPOC community alone,” Elizabeth Gore, Hello Alice co-founder, told TechCrunch. “Also, the biggest gap we saw to growing businesses was lack of credit history.”
She also noted that many small business owners don’t have the generational wealth or collateral to put up for loans. Some turn to credit; however, just 25% of small business owners have applied for a business credit card, and 85% of those applications were denied due to poor credit or lack of credit.
The Equitable Access Fund will provide those credit enhancements, including guarantees, loan loss reserves and cash collateral deposits to financing partners. It will be deployed over the next five years with aims to improve equitable access to credit and unlock up to $1 billion in credit for small business owners in what Gore called the “new majority,” which includes women, veterans, BIPOC, Latinx, those with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ and other groups.
Initial capital commitments were led by Wells Fargo. Other partners in the program include First National Bank of Omaha, Mastercard and the Kauffman Foundation.
The fund is part of the Equitable Access Program, run by Hello Alice and GEN, which provides increased credit access via a Mastercard secured card and financial education. As part of the program, Hello Alice also launched a business health score tool in April that provides an overview of a business’s financial health and recommendations on how owners can improve their performance.
Meanwhile, Hello Alice serves 1.3 million small business owners, and its loan center has distributed just over $30 million in grants and continues to grow with 92 lenders, Gore said.
“With the economic uncertainty, upheaval in banking and a lot of the fear that things are tightening and interest rates are changing, we’re going to see that it’s even harder for folks to get loans, particularly in the first 24 months of their business,” Gore added. “We really rushed to get out the business health score, which was supposed to come out later, because it is absolutely critical that all business owners are managing their cash flow appropriately right now.”