Together, we can build an economy that works

Picture a group of 10 Lancaster entrepreneurs starting or growing their businesses. They are a more diverse group than you often see in Lancaster—4 are African American, 3 are white, 2 are Latino and 1 is African. They all have one thing in common: They are entrepreneurs with a dream of improving their lives by starting a business of their own.

You know how risky starting a business can be. Imagine, then, the risk involved in not only being responsible for a loan of your own, but also guaranteeing the loans of 9 other individuals. But that’s what they did. Through ASSETS’ Lending Circle program, entrepreneurs support each other for a full year of business growth. They commit to each other’s success. They improve their credit and access traditional capital. They formalize their businesses and increase their income. They increase the diversity of Lancaster’s economy. And they do it together.

This is the power of ASSETS, which you help to make possible with your financial support.

With your help, ASSETS supports businesses and helps to create thriving wage jobs. Through your generous support, ASSETS helps local businesses be a driving force for good. And it is not just the Lending Circles that are working.

We are:

  • Training social enterprises through the Great Social Enterprise Pitch to hire refugees and people with barriers to employment.
  • Helping women start and grow businesses through the ASSETS Women’s Business Center to achieve parity in business-ownership.
  • Working with existing for-profit companies to Measure What Matters – to consider their social and environmental impact in the community in new ways—through restructuring businesses to offer employee ownership, diversifying leadership and management structures, adding more local women-owned or people-of-color owned businesses to their supply chains, and becoming certified B Corps.

The BBC has called Lancaster “America’s Refugee Capital.” If we can resettle 20x more refugees than any other place in the country, we believe that we can build an economy with the highest rates of women- and people-of-color-owned businesses and the most B Corps per capita. Will you help us work toward this vision?

Together, we can build an economy that works.

Your donation will help us meet our $40,000 fiscal year-end goal and continue to build an economy that works for all. You can give on-line today!

Business-based solutions can address violence, poverty

ASSETS Program Director Jonathan Coleman recently published an article in the Lancaster Newspaper titled “Business-based solutions can address violence, poverty”. In this article Jonathan gives some advice on how he thinks we can reduce poverty in the city. 

When I moved to Lancaster city in 2013 to work at ASSETS Lancaster, I was often told that the city is new and improved, a different place than it was a decade ago. The dramatic development of downtown, the popularity of First Fridays and the influx of new residents, both young hipsters and still-hip retirees, were examples of a city on the way up. As I began to dig into some of the economic realities of the city, however, I soon realized that this success narrative was missing some important components. A decade ago, poverty rates in Lancaster city were 21 percent, according to U.S. Census figures. Today, that number has jumped to 29 percent. Worse yet, poverty rates in parts of the south side of the city today are at 40 percent.

It is clear from these statistics that despite the apparent rising tide of city development, not all boats have been lifted. Many of our citizens are being left behind. This reality impacts all of us, regardless of our economic status. Take recent criminal activity in Lancaster as an example. Each headline likely involves crippling economic underpinnings that go unmentioned in the news reports. It stands to reason that in light of this reality, a primary tactic to reduce violence could be poverty alleviation.
We must recognize that a renovated downtown, involvement in community peace initiatives, and more security cameras — while all positive initiatives in their own right — cannot offset the challenges to those living in poverty.
With this in mind, we want to propose a few ideas to reduce poverty using business-based approaches:

Support businesses and “social enterprises” that pay thriving wages.
The best way out of poverty is a good job. Why not, therefore, do everything we can to promote businesses that intentionally pay high enough wages for a family to not only survive, but thrive? The Lancaster Food Co. is a great example of a new social enterprise established for this purpose, intending to create more than 40 thriving wage jobs for those who struggle to find work elsewhere.
These companies only succeed, however, with adequate market demand. In Lancaster, that could include all of us who eat bread (and the expanding line of food products the company produces)!

Consider a Social Impact Bond to fund efforts to reduce poverty in the city.
A Social Impact Bond is an innovative financial product created to get funding into the hands of the most successful nonprofits. These bonds bring in for-profit investors who get financial returns, paid by the government, if the funded project results in reduced government expenses. Think this is unrealistic? Goldman Sachs recently made a $13.5 million investment into a Social Impact Bond aiming to reduce recidivism in New York. This model proves the financial value to society of investing in poverty alleviation.

Get money into the hands of underrepresented entrepreneurs so they can grow their businesses. Millions of dollars have been invested into city businesses over the last decade, but those efforts have not created prosperity for all, so maybe we should add a new approach.

At ASSETS, we are already working on this through our Lending Circles Microloan Program, empowering entrepreneurs from low-income communities to grow their businesses, creating new jobs and developing their neighborhoods from within. Lancaster needs more targeted solutions to fight poverty. These are a few ideas, but there are certainly others to be considered. Neighbors, nonprofits, businesses, and government should consider new shared vision and common goals to reduce poverty. The future is bright, but only if all boats can rise with the tide.

ASSETS Lancaster Disburses Microloans to Introductory Lending Circle

Lancaster, PA.  ASSETS Lancaster is proud to announce the official launch and loan disbursement of its first Lending Circle, as part of the newly developed PRECAPS Microloan Program.

The PRECAPS program has been developed for Lancaster-based entrepreneurs in partnership with FINANTA, a certified CDFI and SBA Microloan Intermediary based in Philadelphia. FINANTA developed the PRECAPS program in 2011 and has since extended 281 microloans and invested $1.4 million in micro-businesses. The unique Lending Circle model provides access to capital, business consulting services, networking opportunities, and a focus on establishing or improving credit history for entrepreneurs. Members of the circle guarantee the loans of all other group members, providing a form of “personal collateral.” This method not only helps to mitigate the risk of the loans, but also creates a community of entrepreneurs who have a vested interest in the success of their colleagues, leading to increased collaboration, higher loan repayment rates, and stronger business growth. The first Lending Circle consists of 8 entrepreneurs from various backgrounds and industries who are receiving loans of either $1,200 or $3,600. After completion of the 12 month program and repayment plan, they will be eligible for larger loans, either through a new Lending Circle with ASSETS or potentially from traditional lenders.

ASSETS Lancaster, based in the Southern Market Center at 100 South Queen Street in Lancaster, seeks to change lives and promote economic development by providing business support services to aspiring entrepreneurs from underserved populations.

The loan closing will take place tommorrow, March 14, at 10:00am.

For more information contact ASSETS Lancaster at 717.393.6089 or email info@assetslancaster.org.

ASSETS Microloan Program Launches!

We are pleased to announce the launch of our PRECAPS Microloan Program! This new ASSETS initiative provides microloans (up to $3,600) for entrepreneurs and connects them with networks of peers with similar financing needs. PRECAPS brings these individuals together and provides capital in a group setting, while also helping to improve credit scores and deliver business education to build entrepreneurial and managerial skills.

For more information, click here: http://www.assetslancaster.org/become-a-client/lending-circles/

There will be an information session for all interested entrepreneurs this Thursday, December 5, from 9:00-10:30am or 3:00-4:30pm. PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD! Attendance at one of these sessions is required to join the program. If you are planning to attend, click the link below to RSVP.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ZS0-SJLgc45m7jmWMdlQEqQbIEbSmWU4qPDazDHLrXM/viewform

Microgranting/giving circles

I learned more about microgranting this week – through talking with folks at Awesome Pgh. A group of 10 ‘trustees’ gives $100 per month and collectively decides who to give a $1,000 grant to each month.

I love this idea. In a town with limited philanthropic resources (at least publicly accessible resources like foundations, govt, etc.), this could be a great resource to catalyze creative ideas.

Further thoughts on giving circles: http://janisfoster.blogspot.com/2012/09/hey-giving-circles.html

Shoot me a line if this is something you’re interested in….