LiftFund, Cadence Team Up to Help Entrepreneurs

Aleia Shipman, owner of 3G Chemical Solutions in Bessemer, Alabama

Cadence Bank partners with LiftFund to provide funding, business education and support to small businesses and entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds. With Cadence’s help, LiftFund provides loans in 15 states.

LiftFund has offered microloans, small business loans and resources to more than 18,000 diverse business owners and entrepreneurs since 1994 totaling more than $450 million. That makes it one of the largest nonprofit microfinance organizations in America.

Janie Barrera, founder of the organization, says its growth is attributable to partners like Cadence Bank.

“LiftFund has been able to grow and reach more small business owners due to the sustainable relationship we have established with Cadence Bank,” she says.

Cadence Bank supports LiftFund’s efforts to provide resources

Domingo Barrios, vice president, emerging markets manager for Cadence, says working with LiftFund aligns with Cadence’s objectives to support small businesses, particularly those that are diverse, minority owned, women owned, veteran owned, and serve low- to moderate-income communities. Therefore, it made sense for Cadence to step in with an initial $1 million investment in 2015, followed by another $1 million commitment, to support LiftFund’s mission to build an economy where everyone has an opportunity to prosper.

“We also provide grants to LiftFund, ranging from $15,000 to $20,000, to support the organization’s ability to help entrepreneurs and small businesses achieve their dreams and aspirations within our mutual footprints,” Barrios says.

“One reason we work with LiftFund is because many of these individuals would not qualify to meet a bank’s lending requirements,” Barrios says. “By partnering with LiftFund, we can indirectly support these small businesses through affordable lending products, business support and consultative services at no cost to them.”

He says LiftFund provides the funding and assumes the risk that banks cannot. LiftFund is very successful in getting loans repaid as these businesses grow—more than 96%, far above industry average. This success then gives businesses the ability to seek funding from traditional banks.

“Once these businesses mature and grow, they have the opportunity to come back to the bank and show they have their financials in place,” Barrios says. “Working with LiftFund is a win-win situation.”

Barrios says LiftFund opens access and provides the foundation for success.

“We want these businesses to be successful,” he says “They grow to become good investments for banks, and this opens up capital for them that they wouldn’t have had access to prior to LiftFund,” he says.

LiftFund helps diverse businesses work toward success

Barrera says LiftFund was started in San Antonio and now has a footprint in 15 states in the South and Southeast. She says her interest in helping low-income entrepreneurs stems from her own family’s experience.

“As a teenager, I watched my parents struggle to keep their restaurant open due to their lack of financial expertise,” she says. “This was the driving force behind my decision to join LiftFund. I wanted to help level the financial playing field and provide underserved individuals with access to the capital they need to start or grow their businesses. It has been a long and rewarding journey since then.”

Barrera says LiftFund has had a strong impact since 1994:

  • $450 million in funding to underestimated small businesses
  • 25,000 small business loans
  • $6 billion in economic impact
  • 67,000 business support hours
  • 23,000 jobs created
  • 57,000 jobs retained

Its borrowers, who receive an average $17,000 loan, are:

  • 67% low to moderate income
  • 60% male
  • 40% female
  • 53% Hispanic
  • 20% white
  • 22% Black or African American
  • 8% veterans

In addition to funding, LiftFund provides business support and consultation services to its borrowers.

“LiftFund, with support from Cadence, has provided support to small business owners via more than 39,000 business consultations and 1,600 events,” Barrera says. “This support has helped entrepreneurs understand and manage the complexities of running a business, from developing business plans to figuring out how to market their products.”

Barrera believes that entrepreneurship has the power to transform lives and communities. According to her, for every $1 LiftFund lends, small business owners create a positive return of $14 in economic activity for their local community.

A LiftFund success story

Barrera was especially proud of one particular entrepreneur’s story in her work with LiftFund.

Aleia Shipman is the owner of 3G Chemical Solutions in Bessemer, Alabama. She had been working in sales at a chemical company for 10 years and decided to branch out on her own to start an environmentally friendly chemical company. When her business quickly outgrew her home and then her office space, she was on the lookout for capital to scale.

With LiftFund’s help, Shipman was finally able to get the funds she needed to expand her company with a warehouse and office space lease and grew her business to serve various locations in Alabama and Georgia.

“I am proud that I stepped out there and did it, even though this is a male-dominated industry and I’m a minority female,” she said.

LiftFund has plans for the future

LiftFund has plans for two impactful programs which it has already begun to implement: Dream Maker Fund and interest buydown programs.

The Dream Maker Fund has provided capital to entrepreneurs and small business owners in five Texas markets, and LiftFund plans to extend this support to more communities. The funding takes the form of grants, not investments, which LiftFund uses to make loans. As they’re repaid, they go back as grants to make more loans to more businesses.

Interest buydowns can improve cash flow and lower monthly payments for borrowers through affordable capital, which is especially impactful in a rising interest rate environment. These buydowns can also create more jobs and retain more jobs in the communities that need them.

“Partnerships between organizations like LiftFund and Cadence Bank are integral to ensuring that all business owners have the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” Barrera says. “We are incredibly grateful for Cadence's commitment to supporting small businesses and creating a more equitable and prosperous future.”

Cadence Bank does right by its communities

Helping community partners like LiftFund supports the bank’s values, such as doing right by others.

Barrios says investing in relationships drives the bank’s vision of helping people, companies and communities prosper.

“Building relationships that are sustainable, not only for our bank but for our community partners, is important,” he says. “As a company, we support building relationships with groups with diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are representative of the communities we serve. This allows us a significant way to work alongside these communities and help them grow in sustainable ways.”

To learn more about Cadence Bank and its focus on giving back to communities, visit our Stories page.


This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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