A Colorado Springs group has approved nearly $500,000 in loans to 25 local small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, with plans to lend another $750,000 this week to up 35 more firms.
Survive & Thrive COS, started two weeks ago by technology entrepreneur Vance Brown to make forgivable recovery loans to local businesses, has received nearly 800 applications totaling $22.3 million, said Natasha Main, executive director of Exponential Impact, a technology incubator and accelerator that is operating the loan program.
One of those loans will help Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery in downtown Colorado Springs reopen April 22 for curbside pickup of a limited number of menu items, said owner Michelle Marx. The $25,000 loan will help Marx rehire five or six of the 30 employees who were furloughed when the popular restaurant closed March 15; she also plans to use the money to rebuild her inventory of gluten-free ingredients to prepare for the reopening. She said the restaurant will be open for takeout orders from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
“This felt like such a loving thing for the sake of the community and small businesses,” Marx said. “It is very meaningful for a sense of community and for the financial assistance.”
The proogram is offering three-year, low-interest- rate loans up to $25,000 to aid El Paso County businesses that were viable before the pandemic hit, need immediate financial help and may not be able to qualify for other emergency financing, said Brown, Exponential Impact’s co-founder and chairman. Survive & Thrive COS is aimed at businesses that may not be able to quality for loans funded by the $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package enacted late last month.
“We realized early on that our local small businesses would need immediate support to sustain operations now and beyond the pandemic,” Brown said Monday in a news release. “The need is local and the time is now.”
The 700 applications for help far exceeds the $2 million available, so Brown and Main are appealing for additional financial support for the fund. Survive & Thrive has received support from Brown, other entrepreneurs, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, the Lane Foundation, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Colorado Springs Utilities. Potential investors can contact Main at email@example.com.
The loans will be paid to borrowers over three months and carry no interest and require no payments in the first year, with annual interest rates of 1% and 2% in the second and third year, Brown said. Borrowers are required to repay the funds, but “these loans are like borrowing from a friend. We aren’t going to sue you or ruin your credit if you can’t repay,” he said.
Potential borrowers must complete a one-page application at exponentialimpact.com detailing how they will use the money, submit a reference and financial statement and participate in a video interview, Brown said. In addition to the loan, the borrowers also will go through the Exponential Impact program, which includes one-on-one weekly mentoring and webinars on subjects ranging from negotiating with vendors and landlords to maintaining emotional and spiritual health.