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Business Academy Helps Make Chicagoland Entrepreneurs' Outlooks a Bit Sunnier


Leaders Bank assistant vice president Nicholl Doggett discusses the bank’s microloan program for entrepreneurs with Skye Frank, MBA, of Sunshine Enterprises’ Community Business Academy.


Skills and capital

    In underserved Chicago-area communities, residents frequently struggle to find goods and services they need. Entrepreneurs in these communities want to fill that void and provide jobs, helping make their neighborhoods safer, brighter places to live. But they often lack access to both the business skills and working capital their start-ups require.

    The Community Business Academy (CBA) from Sunshine Enterprises strives to help these entrepreneurs and revitalize their communities. The Woodlawn-based academy provides a 12-week course featuring weekly three-hour training classes in business fundamentals, including budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and cash flow analysis. Classes are held on Chicago's South Side, the West Side and in west Evanston.

    “The academy serves the needs of entrepreneurs who need a leg up,” says Joel Hamernick, Sunshine Enterprises executive director. “Many don’t otherwise have access to business skills development. They really profit from Community Business Academy’s education.”


Microloans, major benefits

     With the help of Oak Brook-based Leaders Bank, CBA addresses the entrepreneurs' need for cash infusions. Leaders Bank provides microloans of up to $25,000 to entrepreneurs involved in the Community Business Academy.

     "When businesses are just starting out, they often don't have the collateral or experience to get larger loans," explains Nicholl E. Doggett, Leaders Bank assistant vice president of mortgage lending.

    "But they still need money to create inventory and opportunities to grow their businesses. They require facilities, staff and raw materials. The microloans we provide are smaller-scale loans that allow them to do these things. In a microloan, we don't require as much financial background from the borrower."

    Leaders Bank provides two microloan products: a three-year fully-amortizing loan, and a five-year fully amortizing loan, Doggett says.

    Leaders Bank has provided microloans to start-up bakeries, software firms and pest control operations, among others in the program. "I really enjoy meeting the different business owners, hearing their dreams and watching them grow with the microloans we supply,” she adds. “One pest control company needed a small loan. That loan allowed them to expand. They generated so much revenue, they paid off the loan early."


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