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Accelerator program aims to help business owners of color in Manchester

This year the Community Loan Fund outreached the Mercy of God African Market owner to encourage her to apply to the new accelerator program.
Courtesy of N.H Community Loan Fund
N.H. Community Loan Fund reached out to Beatriz Adekoya, owner of the Mercy of God African Market in Manchester, encouraging her to apply to the new accelerator program.

The N.H. Community Loan Fund and the Manchester National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are reaching out to low-income Manchester residents who identify as Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian, or other people of color, inviting them to be part of a new program that could help their small businesses grow and succeed.

The Community Driven Economic Empowerment program offers up to $5,000 to BIPOC small business owners living in the Greater Manchester area. It's not a loan; the fund recipients get to keep the money.

The funds can be used for computer hardware and software, legal consultation, marketing or bookkeeping. Additionally, the Community Loan Fund offers free business coaching and consulting, including advice from the Center for Women & Enterprise and N.H. Small Business Development Center. Owners do not have to be recipients of the funds to access these free services.

The initiative was launched in January 2022, but the program delayed accepting applications until last week; they took additional time to do more research about entrepreneurs' needs. Last year, they interviewed 45 BIPOC business owners to gather that information.

Carlos Rincon, the business lender at N.H. Community Loan Fund, said they aspire to help people who face challenges accessing capital and resources.

"The traditional credit loans [are] very strict. So this is just a step to get them ready to access other loan products depending on their business stage," said Rincon.

Rincon said they would not ask the entrepreneurs for financial information. They only have to tell the story about how they started their business and a plan on how they will use the money.

"We don't care if they had a bankruptcy," he said. "The ultimate goal is to connect them to traditional credit sources when they are ready."

The accelerator is reaching out to the Latino community with material written in Spanish, and they will provide interpreters if needed. Its staff is also going directly to small businesses to spread the word. They are connecting with other communities through the Manchester Economic Development Office.

Rincon said their biggest challenge is letting people know this resource is available.

"Word of mouth has been the best mechanism so far," he said.

The organizations have up to $50,000 available. Small business owners can apply online until May 19. The funds will be disbursed by the end of May of this year.

There will be a workshop to help with applications on May 6 at 30 Amherst St. in Manchester from 9 to 11 a.m. 

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.