The mission of Baltimore Community Lending (BCL) is to support the revitalization and strengthening of underserved neighborhoods through innovative and flexible financial assistance designed to promote community development. As a community development financial institution, BCL makes loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Baltimore metropolitan area who are unable to get financing from mainstream lending sources.
Truist Foundation recently announced a $600,000 commitment to BCL, which will assist the expansion of the nonprofit’s business coaching program and help streamline its loan-making system to maximize impact. This will be accomplished by providing funding and training to help minority entrepreneurs break through systemic barriers.
“BCL makes loans to small businesses that cannot meet the collateral or other qualifications for traditional credit,” said Watchen Harris Bruce, president, and CEO of Baltimore Community Lending. “Instead, we mitigate risk by requiring all applicants to participate in a free small business training program. BCL believes that requiring business training, counseling and ongoing support is a more equitable way to mitigate risk and make more sense in helping to ensure long term success.”
She continued, “But area business coaching providers lack the capacity to support BCL’s clients, so BCL established an in-house business coaching program, hiring a full-time business coach (technical assistance officer) in December 2021. As our loan portfolio grows, and more and more potential borrowers hear about BCL, we need to expand our business coaching program. The Truist grant will support this expansion.”
To help ensure the long-term success of its loan recipients, BCL offers a unique small business training program, which pairs each loan recipient with a financial coach who helps them develop a business plan; project cash flow; and provide financial guidance before, during and after receiving a loan. Harris Bruce estimates that at least 120 new small business borrowers and 80 existing small business borrowers will benefit from the grant over a three-year period.
“I was very excited because this grant will help us achieve our goals of expanding our business development and technical assistance services in Baltimore to small businesses,” said Harris Bruce. “BCL believes that small business training, rather than requiring collateral, is not only a more equitable way to mitigate risk, it is more sensible as well. We expect our small business borrowers to be successful and we measure our own success accordingly.”
She added, “BCL believes our efforts will strengthen and grow successful small business ownership in Baltimore’s underserved communities and among its disenfranchised populations.
Harris Bruce said that BCL has been a fixture in the Baltimore community for many years.
“Baltimore Community Lending (BCL) has been supporting underserved Baltimore City neighborhoods since 1989 through innovative and flexible financial resources for real estate construction; community economic development; and small business loans and business coaching services,” she said. “We address the capital gaps that prevent locally-driven projects and business ventures from moving ahead.”
She added, “The Truist grant will help BCL move closer to its vision of reimaging Baltimore as a place of inclusive and equitable opportunity supported by a vibrant ecosystem of community partners. BCL’s role is also to transform and change the narratives of underserved communities by providing access to capital to entrepreneurs to start and expand their businesses.”
The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on building career pathways to economic mobility and strengthening small businesses.
“We wanted to partner with Baltimore Community Lending based on the work they do around having a supportive community to strengthen small businesses,” said Lynette Bell, president of Truist Foundation. “We know that there are organizations that work on communities with solutions to address deeper, systemic inequities.”
The $600,000 grant is part of the $120 million joint Truist and Truist Foundation commitment to strengthen and support small businesses nationwide, with a particular focus on Black-, Latine-, and women-owned businesses.
“After the murder of George Floyd, we really wanted to look at how do we continue to support and build ecosystems that have barriers and inequities that need to be disrupted,” said Bell. “We know that Baltimore Community Lending shares that vision and value. We wanted to provide them with $600,000 to support their efforts on eradicating that common inequity.”