Foundation partners with racial equity lender on small business loans

Eric Foster Courtesy Rende Progress Capital

The Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation is partnering with Rende Progress Capital (RPC) to help early-stage businesses and backed its first loan customer.

Grand Rapids-based RPC said Wednesday that the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation is partnering with the firm to provide small business loans to early-stage excluded entrepreneurs facing barriers to traditional capital due to racial bias and being in the early phases as a startup.

RPC was founded in 2018 by Eric Foster and Cuong Huynh.

“Amid our racial equity lending to excluded entrepreneurs, we noted the growth of early-stage businesses (that) complete mentoring programs, such as SpringGR,” Foster said. “However, they find problems with obtaining loans. … Nevertheless, some of them have good business plans and promise that may merit an initial loan. The partnership between RPC and the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation will allow us to service these budding business owners of color.”

Funding will be allocated to entities in the following categories:

  • Businesses in operation less than two years
  • Excluded entrepreneurs of color classified by RPC as emerging (in operation for two to five years) and existing (five years or older)
  • Early-stage excluded entrepreneurs affiliated with the SpringGR and AmplifyGR programs

The Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation and RPC said the first loan made under the new initiative went to Studio 824 Beauty Lounge in Grand Rapids, a beauty spa and retailer of skin care products that also provides skin care treatment services and beauty counseling to women.

Studio 824 is owned by Janiece Stewart, a Black graduate of SpringGR. RPC approved the loan based on racial equity and business criteria; Stewart’s commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship in communities of color; and her recent pivot during COVID-19, in which she developed new online offerings of her product and services that yielded new revenue in April.

“I want to give a huge thank you to Rende Progress Capital for helping with my business goals,” Stewart said. “They offered funding, as well as advice, resources and information that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else. With their help, I am now able to have a line of credit that I can use to grow my business.

“The main thing that I loved was their willingness to work with me on terms. Kevin (an RPC loan officer) has been extremely helpful, walking me through everything step by step and offering great business advice, as well. Overall, I am so happy to do business with RPC and would recommend them to any minority-owned business that is looking to grow and scale their business.”

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