Manchester initiative launched to support minority-owned businesses

NAACP-Community Loan Fund initiative to offer assistance, training, financing
Commy Loan Fund Naacp

Manchester NAACP President James McKim, left, and NH Community Loan Fund community business lender Zachery Palmer. (Courtesy photo)

The Manchester NAACP and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund are working together on a pilot project to provide more support to businesses run by people of color.

The Community-Driven Economic Empowerment (C-DEE) pilot program’s goal is to bring people of color together as a community to create a more resilient local economy, organizers said.

The initiative aims to increase technical assistance, training, and loans to businesses in the greater Manchester area.

James T. McKim, president of the Manchester NAACP, said, “It is important for us to create a structure where those in the community drive how resources are applied in the community,” said

According Zachery Palmer, a community business lender at the Community Loan Fund, “Some small businesses don’t have relationships with a traditional bank and they don’t know of or where to turn to for help in making businesses successful or sustainable.

He added that many in Manchester’s growing immigrant and BIPOC communities have entrepreneurial backgrounds, and some are hoping to expand their businesses in the skilled trades, retail, and restaurant industries.

At the heart of the effort will be a Community Business Development Council, a volunteer group of business owners to identify potential businesses to receive loans and training and to conduct outreach with non-English speakers.

“Who knows more about the value of neighborhood businesses than the people who live there?” said Palmer. “We believe our success in Manchester will rely on listening and respecting cultural differences and cues, just as good business owners do. And we can help ensure their success by connecting them with technical assistance providers who are also listening and respecting the cultural cues and differences.”

The listening has already begun. The initiative began with interviews conducted by Deo Mwano Consultancy with 45 business owners in greater Manchester who identify as black, indigenous or people of color, about their strengths, struggles, and what their businesses need to succeed.

The interviews revealed that the business owners generally were resourceful and resilient, had excellent relationships with their customers and offered unique products and services customized for the cultures they serve.

Many said they faced similar challenges, including technology, financing, and bookkeeping. Few felt connected to business institutions, such as banks or industry groups. C-DEE hopes to change that, by connecting business owners of color with customized coaching, and by inviting local banks to participate in the loans it generates.

As part of the effort, the Community Loan Fund recently opened an office on Amherst Street.

Funders supporting C-DEE include Bank of America, Santander, Bangor Savings Bank, NBT Bank, Cambridge Trust and the Endowment for Health. The McLane Middleton law firm and the Small Business Development Center have already signed on as technical assistance providers.

Anyone interested in the program can contact Palmer at the Community Loan Fund.

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