Finding Opportunities Other Lenders Miss

By Eric Weaver, CEO of Opportunity Fund

Imagine you are a young parent who got laid off from your job with the city parks department during the recession. No one else was hiring, so you started your own landscaping business. You've hustled, and built up a small clientele, and you know if you could borrow $3,000 to buy more lawn mowers and trimmers, you could hire two friends and double your business. Where do you go? Your credit card maxes out at $1,000, you don't own a home to borrow against, and this loan is way to small for a bank to consider, not to mention your mediocre credit score and that you have only six months in business. Yet if you could get this loan, you could create two jobs and increase your own income. And you could pay it back.

Or imagine that you and your husband have owned a well-loved neighborhood restaurant for a couple of years. The space next door goes up for lease and you see an opportunity to expand and create 10 new jobs. You need $50,000 to do the tenant improvements, but your bank says you need three years of profitable operations before you can qualify -- even using the SBA program. Yet you have more than enough cash flow to make the loan payments.

In communities throughout the U.S., there are 10.8 million stories like the two above; stories of small business owners who are on the brink of success and primed to create jobs for themselves and others. Yet, they cannot access the loan that would put them over the edge because their credit score isn't high enough, their loan request is too small, or their business is too new.

Opportunity Fund and Accion, campaign partners in the Job Raising Challenge, are the on-the-ground organizations working to provide small business owners with the loans they need to grow and create jobs. And create jobs they do -- each $10,000 loan that we provide to a small business owner with employees supports 5.6 jobs, on average, in communities that need them most. That's not only job creation -- it's efficient job creation.

With feet on the ground in over 25 U.S. cities, our 200-plus staff members work tirelessly to uncover business growth opportunities that others simply miss. We have proven ability to provide affordable and appropriate credit to vital underserved markets. And, with a 95 percent loan repayment rate and a 97 percent one-year business survival rate, we're proud to claim real, measurable results.

We believe that small businesses can create jobs faster, more efficiently and in greater numbers than any other kind of enterprise. Over the next six weeks, via this column, we'll walk you through the front doors of the U.S. small businesses on the front lines of job creation by sharing their stories. Through them, we hope you will be compelled to join our team in supporting U.S small businesses. With the help from investors, donors and YOU, we can turn even more opportunity into concrete employment opportunities for hardworking people. Will you join us by donating today?