Access to financial assistance can mean the difference between a business succeeding – or closing its doors. Entrepreneurs that have no access to collateral, are credit-challenged, or lack support of alternative financing, face many barriers in securing capital to start or expand businesses. Our Co-op Capital relationship-based, micro-lending program was created as a solution to financially empower these individuals, and spur economic development.
The Co-op Capital program flips the traditional lending model and bases lending on trusted relationships between partner organizations – such as nonprofits, community organizations, and educational institutions – and individuals in the communities they serve.
While character-based, community circle micro-lending is not new, especially internationally, the practice of offering loans through member organizations versus a traditional banking institution is a largely untried model in the United States.
This program has been called "the alternative to the alternatives" as it does not require credit, collateral, or status; and shifts the decision-making authority to community organizations, nonprofits, and institutions based on character, goals, and determination – so entrepreneurs can build businesses that succeed.
This award-winning program was successfully implemented through our partnership with La Montañita Food Co-op, which has provided capital to their small business suppliers. In 2016, this program expanded to include three new partnerships. With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, City Alive, and Living Cities, the Co-op Capital model continues widening access to financial assistance for low-income entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. Organizations working in partnership with Nusenda to implement Co-op Capital include: Family Independence Initiative, Partnership for Community Action, Cultivating Coders, Native Community Finance, South Valley Economic Development Center, UNM Innovation Academy, and Three Sisters Kitchen.