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The Indy Chamber’s Business Ownership Initiative (BOI) reported today on its successes supporting Indy-based businesses and aspiring employers in 2019, expanding lending capital and education resources on top of another year of 10,000+ hours of free business coaching and training opportunities.

As the umbrella organization for the Indy Chamber’s entrepreneur services division, BOI also houses the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center (CIWBC) which offers coaching and small business lending as a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) partner, as well as the Hispanic Business Council. Collectively, they served approximately 1,300 clients and supported 41 new business starts in 2019.

Over the last year, BOI has made a strategic shift towards helping small businesses access capital. In June 2019, the Indy Chamber hired Rick Proctor to lead BOI, leveraging his extensive resume in financial services and community economic development to ramp up the organization’s lending activities and to help disadvantaged populations overcome economic hurdles. Since 2010, the organization has provided over $2,500,000 in loan capital, with 63% of loan recipients considered minority- or women-owned businesses.

In September, the organization was certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). BOI’s status as a CDFI not only unlocks more funding sources for the organization, but raises the ceiling on the size of grants BOI can receive, putting more resources into the Indianapolis small business community. Alongside this new status, BOI was granted a CDFI Program Technical Assistance Awards to serve low-income and underserved communities lacking adequate access to financial resources.

“Access to capital has been cited as one of the largest barriers to growth for small businesses in Indianapolis,” shared Rick Proctor, Executive Director of Entrepreneur Services and BOI. “Through providing technical assistance and flexible lending guidelines, our goal is to get more capital into the hands of promising businesses that may not have qualified for a traditional bank loan.”

In addition to expanding financial resources, BOI hit significant milestones in growing its programs for underserved populations. The ReEntry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDi) is one such program. Since its inception three years ago, REDi alone has logged nearly 10,000 hours of business training with 1,000 currently- or formerly-incarcerated individuals looking to start their own businesses.

Moving into REDi’s fourth year, BOI is working to identify other barriers and challenges to returning citizens’ entrepreneurship (i.e. difficulties in qualifying for certain licenses and loan programs) to strengthen the curriculum. In 2020, the program will launch the creation of peer mentoring opportunities, lending circles for seed funding, several new locations, and a leadership academy.

Recognizing the strong entrepreneurial spirit of the Latino community in Indianapolis, the Indy Chamber’s Hispanic Business Council partnered with Interise to launch Accelerate Latinx, a Streetwise “MBA” program designed for established Latinx business owners preparing for accelerated growth and expansion. The first cohort is made up of 14 participants from various industries and is expected to graduate in May.

“We believe that an inclusive economic development strategy begins with strengthening the small businesses in our community,” noted Ian Nicolini, the Indy Chamber’s Vice-President of Indianapolis Economic Development, who also oversees BOI.  “Whether we’re working with a growing tech company or teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, our mission stays the same: empower business to ensure all have the opportunity to succeed.”

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