State, private sector create $10M business loan program for women, people of color
Detroit business owner Joyell Lewis on Thursday applauded the launch of the new $10 million Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund (MEOF), a microbusiness loan program for women and entrepreneurs of color in Michigan, led by Michigan Women Forward (MWF).
“I want to congratulate all of the future loan recipients that are starting their journey next,” said Lewis.
Since 2022, Lewis has owned Joyola Mei Salon, a Corktown community business that sells organic and natural hair care products. Prior to the start of MEOF, Lewis, who is African American, was able to secure a loan from MWF and the city of Detroit to help her start her business. She said microbusiness loan programs like MEOF are important because they provide owners technical assistance as well as partial funding.
MEOF is designed to assist women and entrepreneurs of color in Michigan. Entrepreneurs will be able to apply for up to $50,000 in loans through this program. With the average loan managed by MWF being $25,000, the fund will be able to assist about 400 entrepreneurs.
“To build a strong economy, we need to make sure that every Michigander can be part of our state’s economic momentum,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. “That’s why we are making this investment today to help women, veterans, and entrepreneurs of color start and grow their successful businesses.”
He joined Lewis at a midday news conference, along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) as well as representatives from MWF, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Huntington National Bank and the Ballmer Group, a national foundation that was founded by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a Detroit native, and his wife, Connie.
The fund will be managed by Michigan Women Forward by processing applications that come through its website, along with referrals made by its banking institution partners. Launch partner, Huntington National Bank, will provide an additional pool of applicants.
“Providing access to capital for small businesses that impact the economy in our communities is important to Huntington. Programs like the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund are excellent resources to aid business owners who may not otherwise qualify for traditional loans through banks or other financial institutions,” said Sandy Pierce, Huntington Bank senior executive vice president.
The fund will provide opportunities for those who are socially and economically disadvantaged due to a lack of access to capital and credit throughout Michigan, including cities with low-income populations including but not limited to Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Midland, Pontiac, Saginaw and Ypsilanti.
“We know that systemic inequities impede access, opportunity, and outcomes in economic mobility,” said Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director of Ballmer Group Southeast Michigan. “We are thrilled to support this fund as part of Ballmer Group’s commitment to working with government, nonprofit, and business partners to help strengthen our communities.”