September 24, 2020 (Brunswick, ME)—The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund of the U.S. Treasury today awarded $600,000 in financial assistance to Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) for its lending and development services for small businesses. Specifically, $500,000 will be used to expand CEI’s Wicked Fast loans and complementary business advice, financial counseling and workforce development in Maine. An additional $100,000 is restricted for lending in federally designated “persistent poverty” areas that have had poverty rates of 20 percent or more for the past 30 years, none of which are located in Maine. To deploy the latter funds, CEI will partner with peer organizations that serve these places. In 2019, 78 percent of the people and places receiving loans or business advice from CEI had low or very low incomes.
“CDFIs are on the front lines of building an economy that lifts all people,” said Betsy Biemann, CEO, CEI. “We are here to make sure that small business owners have the resources that they need to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, and are able to innovate and pivot to meet new challenges that, right now, are frequently out of their control. We are hearing from many of our nearly 400 borrowers and the 2,000 entrepreneurs we advise that they want quick access to smaller loans to help them implement new strategies. Many also need advice and coaching on all aspects of running a business, but particularly on credit and financial capability as they navigate cash flow constraints.”
CEI’s Wicked Fast loans of up to $25,000 provide affordable, convenient and quick access to capital for start-ups and emerging small businesses. With a user-friendly application and a decision within three days, they offer an alternative to predatory loans and credit card debt for entrepreneurs who lack access to bank financing. They also link entrepreneurs to CEI’s business development services: startup businesses must work with a CEI business advisor, and applicants with lower credit scores are referred to CEI’s financial counselors. Businesses with five existing or two projected new jobs will be automatically referred to CEI’s workforce development team for support. CEI has made 83 Wicked Fast loans since launching them two years ago. Notably, 45% were made to women-owned businesses and 63% were made to entrepreneurs who have low incomes.
“The value of Wicked Fast loans outweighs their smaller dollar size,” said Keith Bisson, President of CEI. “We’ve seen how they can serve as a critical resource for startup businesses and can help entrepreneurs who lack access to capital, including those who are low income, women business owners, Black and Indigenous business owners and entrepreneurs of color. In a rural state like Maine, sole proprietors and other very small businesses provide employment options where larger employers don’t exist. Small businesses are deeply woven into the economic fabric of our towns.
“My colleagues and I at CEI also want to extend our congratulations to fellow Maine CDFI award recipient, Four Directions Development Corporation, on their $700,000 financial assistance award from the CDFI Fund’s Native American CDFI Assistance Program,” added Bisson.
CEI’s array of financial products and business development services meet the needs of microenterprises and small businesses operating in diverse industries from agriculture and food to childcare. By delivering a continuum of capital, from microloans to equity investments, CEI supports businesses at every stage of development.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at www.ceimaine.org.