Sometimes it doesn’t take much to kick-start a business or help it grow.
According to a study by Intuit Canada, more than half of all small businesses in Canada get off the ground for less than $5,000 and that number is even higher (77 per cent) for sole proprietors. But that $5,000 can be difficult to borrow if you’re just starting out, have little or no credit history, and/or no collateral.
In 2001, Community Futures Boundary introduced a micro lending program that makes it easier for people to borrow smaller amounts of up to $10,000. Since then, they’ve made 92 micro loans totaling $389,968 – the smallest was for $475. The turnaround is quicker, says Susan Green, Loans Manager and coordinator of the micro loans program. Days, not weeks, and clients get 25 per cent of the interest back when they pay their loans off on time. “We’ve even turned a loan around in 24 hours because the client needed to take advantage of an opportunity,” said Susan.
When Lorna MacDougall started her nursery business in 2008, she never imagined that, eight years later, she’d end up opening a retail shop in downtown Grand Forks.
A former pharmacy technician, Lorna started Avalon Gardens as a home-based business so that she could stay home and look after her children. As the business grew, she approached Community Futures Boundary for a loan to purchase additional greenhouses.
She paid off the first loan and returned a couple of years later when she needed to purchase more inventory, and then again as she expanded into pottery and garden décor, paying off each loan.
“I had heard good things about them,” said Lorna. “From the beginning, they’ve always been there to help me out when I needed them. Each loan allowed me to expand and grow my business.”
Last fall, Lorna teamed up with the owner of a successful women’s clothing boutique to open a retail shop in downtown Grand Forks.
“The storefront gives Avalon Gardens a presence downtown, and allows me to carry more items, such as home décor and gifts.”
“Micro loans are the heart and soul of Community Futures,” said Wendy McCulloch, General Manager of Community Futures Boundary. “It’s truly about the people and the community.”
Other types of initiatives they’ve supported include a youth who built a campground in an area destroyed by 2015’s devastating wildfires, and financial support and coaching to a disabled client who runs a window cleaning business.