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A model for CDFI & HBCU partnership

November 22, 2017 / Sadaf Knight / CDFI, Small Business

One of the primary ways that Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF) extends its reach into communities is through partnerships. By working with other organizations and institutions, we can enhance our programs, leverage expertise and local ties, and achieve a greater impact in our communities together. In the past few years, we have worked to create new partnerships with North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), recognizing the important role they play among students and in their local communities. In fact, there is a great opportunity for HBCUs and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) like CSBDF to develop partnerships and work together to spur investment in underserved communities.

To help move this dialogue forward, we released a new report today that details the inception, development, and progress our HBCU initiative. It started in 2014 as an internship program with the aim of exposing local HBCU students to the opportunity finance industry. Over the past three years, this initiative has grown and evolved to encompass partnerships with HBCUs to expand access to entrepreneurial training, resources, and capital.

The 100 HBCUs across the United States are important educational and community institutions. They provide a unique learning environment for African-American students, and through their faculty, staff and alumni have a great impact on their local communities. In recent years, HBCUs have identified new ways to offer high-quality programming to their students, in an increasingly competitive environment. Entrepreneurship has emerged as a theme among many  HBCUs, which creates the space to develop partnerships with CDFIs.

However, developing new partnerships can be difficult. It requires time, dedication, and persistence. The report outlines the partnership framework that helped to guide CSBDF’s approach to working with HBCUs. For each HBCU partnership, the exact parameters and outcomes vary, given the interest, resources, and needs in each area. But the goal of all of them is the same: leverage the expertise, resources, and commitment of each institution to inspire students and local community members to start or grow their own businesses.

Our report discusses in great detail our partnership with Shaw University, our longest standing HBCU relationship. Through this partnership, we jointly launched an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) in the Southeast Raleigh neighborhood, which has long struggled with economic distress. The IEC provides a space for training, events, coworking, incubation, and creativity that serves both Shaw University students and local entrepreneurs. Since opening the IEC has reached over 1,300 people through 20 educational workshops, 14 networking events, and the first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Week in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region.

In addition to our Shaw University partnership, CSBDF has recently developed formal relationships with a few other HBCUs. For example, we opened an Eastern Women’s Business Center in conjunction with Elizabeth City State University, which will provide training and coaching, as well as access to capital, for entrepreneurs in North Carolina’s northeastern region. In the southeastern region, we will be launching a program called Cape Fear Forward with Fayetteville State University. This will be a targeted loan fund aimed at expanding access to capital and entrepreneurial education within Cumberland County.

We hope that this report will help to spur the dialogue on partnerships between CDFIs and HBCUs within the opportunity finance industry and beyond. As CSBDF grows our HBCU program, we will continue to share our outcomes and lessons learned. This report is the first part of a series on our HBCU partnership. The next installment will provide an update on our newer partnerships.

We also invite other CDFIs and HBCUs who are interested to join in the dialogue. To share your story, ideas, and experiences working in a CDFI-HBCU partnership, tweet at us @CarolinaSmBiz.