by Jarquita Brown
Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative once said, “We must change the narratives that sustain problems. Narratives that fail to acknowledge or accurately portray the reality of inequality only serve to perpetuate it.”
During Higher Purpose Co’s second Bi-Annual Funding Network Convening, HPC’s Director of Development and Partnerships Leonette Henderson allowed the participants to think about Stevenson’s quote and how it pertains to their life and work as entrepreneurs.
Over 50 individuals participated in the convening via Zoom and over 1,200 watched via Facebook Live. Many learned about the work of Higher Purpose and its Funding Network, what options are available to them as Black entrepreneurs, and the Black Business Relief Initiative.
Henderson said, “As an organization, we felt it was very important to adapt to the circumstances the world is facing and connect with you all virtually rather than to cancel our convening.
This moment in history, with COVID-19, presents a challenge for all of us. Not just at the federal government level, but at local and family levels, and now more than ever, we need to be innovative, creating, and co-creating around solutions for our communities.”
The convening was led by Henderson and Capital Access Coordinator Constance Brown who works closely with the Funding Network.
The panel included President of Southern Bancorp Community Partners Karama Neal, Director of Lending Communities Unlimited Deborah Temple, and Senior Credit Associate of RSF Social Finance Alex Cabral.
The panelists shared why they were interested in partnering with the Funding Network and their partnering roles.
Temple said, “We were excited to see this next step that Higher Purpose took, and I will just tell you from my perspective, we are much better having partners on the ground working with clients, you have relationships working with lenders that we’re not going to have, and it’s all about relationships.”
The panelists agreed they have a long and trusting relationship with HPC.
Neal added, “It’s critical that we have really trusted partners that we can work with in the places where we want to serve. We’ve had a long relationship with Higher Purpose, and this has been a good way to get out the word about our loan products and the word about our financial development services.”
Cabral said, “We’re grateful and excited to be a part of this partnership. It provides us all with the opportunity to collaborate with organizations and other lenders across the country, to learn from each other and to build financial structures in relationships that include viewpoints from all sides of the table.”
The purpose of the Funding Network is to provide capital matchmaking, application packaging, and customized business growth support for black entrepreneurs in Mississippi.
Since the launching of the funding network in November 2019, over 230 Black entrepreneurs have applied, and the Kiva Mississippi Delta Hub has launched, in which entrepreneurs in Coahoma County and the surrounding Mississippi Delta counties can apply for business loans with a 0% interest rate, no collateral, and borrow up to $10,000 (the borrow amount has increased to $15,000 due to COVID-19).
“We have learned a lot throughout this entire process,” said Brown, adding, “We have reviewed applications that have come through the funding network, and our first wave of capital to be disbursed internally by HPC will be the Business Growth Grant.
$25,000 was allocated at the beginning of January by our CEO Tim Lampkin to provide $2,500 Business Growth Grants. Ten Black owned businesses across Mississippi have been selected to receive this funding.”
Morris Hodges, owner of Morris Watermelon Farm, LLC is one of the Black entrepreneurs selected for the grant. During the convening, Hodges who identifies as a Black farmer shared his experience as an HPC Member and how the organization has helped his business in many ways.
Hodges said, “I am absolutely grateful they [HPC] approved me for the $2,500 Business Growth Grant, the process as I began and as Henderson and Brown alluded to earlier, following an application for loan money as an African American can be intimidating because of history.”
Hodges went on to express his appreciation for HPC and how getting the grant relieved him of financial stress during the upcoming crop season.
He continued, “I am absolutely grateful to be a part of HPC as a client, and I look forward to continuing my relationship with them in the future once the Coronavirus is under control.”
Brown said the development of the funding network has been an exciting and enjoyable process learning from the entrepreneurs and lenders.
Higher Purpose would like to give a special thanks to the following organizations, and financial institutions: Surdna Foundation, Lenderfit, Southern Bancorp, Hope Credit Union, Woodforest National Bank, Rural LISC, RSF Social Finance, Pathway Lending, Communities Unlimited, Cienega Capital, and Guaranty Bank.
Access to the live recording of the convening is available at Higher Purpose Co Facebook page.
The next convening will be held on November 12, 2020.
To learn more about the Funding Network, contact Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-592-2016.