Higher Purpose Co. Hosts Historic Convening Launching the First Funding Network for Black Entrepreneurs in Mississippi

by Jarquita Brown

“What three words would you use to describe how you personally approach your work as an entrepreneur, as a financial institution, as a partner?” Higher Purpose Co. Director of Development and Partnership, Leonette Henderson asked during HPC’s first Funding Network Convening.

Higher Purpose Co. made history November 14 hosting its first Funding Network Convening as over 50 Black entrepreneurs and financial institution representatives filled the room. The purpose of the funding network convening is to connect Black entrepreneurs and financial institutions to increase funding for Black-owned businesses across Mississippi.

Henderson led the convening with a workshop that allowed entrepreneurs to share their perspectives and gain more insight on how entrepreneurs and financial institutions can build relationships with one another and the existing behaviors and thought patterns on financial institutions giving capital and entrepreneurs receiving capital.

HPC’s Capital Access Coordinator, Constance Brown, gave an overview of the funding network.

Brown said, “Over the years, Higher Purpose noticed an increased need to provide capital to black entrepreneurs. This prompted the development of the Higher Purpose Funding Network. Today, we fully step into our role as a non-financial intermediary to create a safe space for black entrepreneurs and financial institutions, to unlearn systemic behavior and forever change capital practices.

The purpose of the Funding Network is to provide capital matchmaking, application packaging, and customized business growth support for black entrepreneurs in Mississippi.”

Brown also thanked the Surdna Foundation on behalf of Higher Purpose for funding the network’s pilot year.

Mekaelia Davis, Program Director for Inclusive Economies of Surdna Foundation said she’s excited about the direction Higher Purpose is heading with its Funding Network.

“We know that for every person that applies for funding, especially among black women, you’re talking about less than a 1 percent chance of getting major funding for black women entrepreneurs, that is beyond sad, and when you think about the fact that by 2053, black household wealth is projected to be zero in this country. If we do not actually do something about this, we are actually turning back the clock of time,” Davis said.

She continued, “We are incredibly proud to partner and support the work of Higher Purpose for a number of reasons: One, the Funding Network bottles a promising model that has been tried. It’s been tried in Philadelphia. It’s been tried in Detroit, and what we see is when funders collaborate, you can amplify the existing resources that are on the ground.

And what we thought was really powerful was not just Tim’s leadership, but it’s really important to support a young organization who is doing this work, a black led organization doing this work.”

Higher Purpose is using the Lenderfit Interface during the application packaging process of the funding network. Lenderfit is a software platform that makes it easier for lenders to work with small business loan applicants.

Co-founder and CEO of Lenderfit, David Taliaferro said the idea of Lenderfit was about creating a tool of meeting an entrepreneur where they currently are in business that does not seem intimidating.

“With Lenderfit we are helping lenders take loan applications from small businesses in a way that’s more small business friendly. It makes the lender more efficient. Higher Purpose will be running their common loan application on our platform to be able to collect information from small businesses and share that with lenders,” said Taliaferro.

He added, “We’re really excited to be working with Higher Purpose Co. We think this is a great way to make some changes in our financial institutions.”

Other keynotes were given by Lisa Locke, Community Development Advisor of Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Elena Bauer, Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Scholar at the University of Mississippi.

Locke presented an overview on Black Women Business Startups, a report by The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Bauer talked about taking the next steps as an entrepreneur as well as the inequalities that exist for the Black entrepreneur.

Coretta Frazier, owner of Professional Management Solutions, said she was overjoyed listening to entrepreneurs and financial institutions perspectives during the convening’s workshop.

Frazier said, “Being an entrepreneur, I learned a few things from the lender’s side. I know what they want and what they expect. 

It felt it was a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and lenders because most people don’t know each other’s perspective. The business owners were able to get the bank and lender’s perspective and vice versa.”

The convening ended with closing remarks by Higher Purpose Co. CEO, Tim Lampkin.

The next convening will be held in Jackson, Mississippi on April 23, 2020.

Higher Purpose would like to thank the following organizations, and financial institutions for making its first convening a success: Surdna Foundation, Clarksdale-Marks Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Lenderfit, Southern Bancorp, Hope Credit Union, Woodforest National Bank, Rural LISC, RSF Social Finance, Pathway Lending, Communities Unlimited, and Guaranty Bank.