Last week, we published our Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Annual Report, outlining all the work we did to support small businesses throughout North Carolina. The report, found here, begins with a message from our President/CEO, Lenwood V. Long, Sr., highlighting North Carolina’s spirit of resilience. In FY17, we were hit by Hurricane Matthew and the western wildfires, devastating communities in their wake. Many families lost their homes and businesses shuttered due to the impacts. But as Lenwood describes, in the face of adversity, community and business leaders, elected officials, and individuals all came together so that impacted areas could “recover, rebuild and thrive.”
As a result, at Carolina Small Business we launched our Small Business Recovery Fund and published a Disaster Relieve Recovery and Resiliency Kit, aimed at assisting small businesses in their efforts to resume operations and prepare for the future. We also extended capital to businesses all across the state through our small business loan program, reaching minority-owned businesses, women, and veterans seeking to make an impact on our economy through their business ventures. In total, as of FY17, we had funded 551 small business loans totaling almost $40 million, which helped create or retain over 1,300 jobs across the state.
Through our various programs offering business assistance, including our Western Women’s Business Center (WWBC), Latino Program, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, and our business services– we were able to provide one-on-one coaching and counseling, workshops and group training, and opportunities for networking. Offering these services are critical for ensuring that small businesses have access to skills and guidance for business success, in addition to accessing much-needed capital.
The Annual Report outlines our various efforts to make an impact in underserved communities and to develop new partnerships, such as our initiative to partner with our state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Our WWBC and Latino Program aim reach women entrepreneurs and the growing Latino business population with specialized services to meet their needs.
The report also includes inspiring stories of our borrowers, whose passion and hard work drive our economy. Kizito Wademi of KW Collards, for example, had an opportunity to sell his popular collard greens at Whole Foods, but needed capital to expand his production. Obtaining a loan from Carolina Small Business allowed him to do just that, and hire more workers and expand his territory. Christina Washington of Medical Arts Pharmacy in Fayetteville was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew, with flooding up to nine feet. She was unable to keep her business going and pay her employees. Christina’s loan from Carolina Small Business allowed her to get back the inventory she needed and keep her employees at work.
While the numbers show the breath of our reach across North Carolina, stories like Kizito and Christina are what inspire us to continue doing our work. Business owners like them are the real vehicles for impact and change in our communities, especially in the face of natural or economic disasters. As Lenwood says, “There is still much work to be done” but Carolina small business will continue to do our part to help small business owners and communities remain resilient.