Umpqua Bank Launches Small Business Empowerment Program With $2 Million To Support Minority, Women Entrepreneurs

Gaby M. Rojas

Umpqua Bank has announced a new program that expands access to capital, resources, and expertise for minority and women entrepreneurs. Umpqua Bank’s Small Business Empowerment Program builds on existing private and public partnerships, including strategic initiatives with numerous business-focused nonprofits and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), to advance economic equality and opportunity for entrepreneurs in historically underserved communities.  

As part of the program, Umpqua has formed multi-year partnerships with four innovative organizations, each working to remove barriers to key areas of business support, including access to technology, low-cost financing, and technical assistance and expertise: Oregon-based MESO (Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon); Washington-based Business Impact NW; California-based Centro Community Partners and Kiva.

According to Umpqua Bank chief marketing communications officer Eve Callahan, the program and newly formed partnerships address an opportunity gap in equitable access to funding and expertise essential to the viability and success of any business, especially those in communities lacking critical resources and support services.

“Entrepreneurs and small business owners create incredible opportunity and prosperity in our communities, but historical barriers continue to exist that prevent many from accessing what they need for success. Partnerships that take a multi-faceted, collaborative approach to close this opportunity gap are essential to give every entrepreneur with good ideas and determination a chance to succeed,” says Callahan. “We’re really pleased to announce the Umpqua Bank Small Business Empowerment Program and the strategic partnerships with these terrific organizations. Together, they’re advancing some of the most innovative, creative and comprehensive approaches to addressing one of the biggest obstacles to prosperity many communities face.”

Details of each partnership and how they will enhance access to economic opportunity are as follows: 

  • Kiva: Access to Capital. Umpqua, through the Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation, is establishing an Umpqua Bank Managed Loan Fund, enabling women and minority entrepreneurs in Umpqua’s footprint to access matched funds and obtain 0% interest, crowdfunded loans. Kiva utilizes an innovative, character-based lending approach, removing collateral and credit history barriers in gaining access to capital. Funds will revolve for three years, multiplying the investment impact of the loans. Since 2005, Kiva has been a global, transformative leader in supporting women and minority entrepreneurs with crowdfunded loans that unlock capital for the underserved, improve the cost of financial services, and address underlying barriers to financial access.
  • Centro Community Partners: Access to Expertise and Tools. Umpqua is funding a significant expansion of Centro’s tech hub and a bilingual mobile app for small businesses over the next three years. Centro’s innovative, award-winning business planning app provides entrepreneurs with affordable, culturally appropriate and high-impact, enterprise-building tools. In addition, Umpqua is funding the expansion of Centro Capital Hubs in the Bay Area, connecting hundreds of entrepreneurs with 0% Umpqua Bank Managed Loan Fund loans through Kiva. In addition, Centro will also be able to enhance technical assistance capacity for local microenterprise organizations through its E-Suite platform, Learning Management System (LMS) platform, and its Centro App solutions. Centro works with entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses.
  • Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO): Geographic Expansion. Umpqua is working closely with MESO to expand services in Southern Oregon. MESO expects to open a satellite office in Jackson County with bilingual loan services and access to new microenterprise tools for a region severely impacted by both wildfires and COVID-19. MESO staff will provide one-to-one culturally specific coaching, credit-building support, technical assistance, and access to a 5:1 matched Individual Development Account (IDA). MESO elevates and empowers historically excluded entrepreneurs with tailored business assistance and flexible capital to build family wealth through business ownership.
  • Business Impact Northwest (BINW): Financial Literacy and Loan Readiness. Recognizing the historic barriers to accessing capital and financial expertise many diverse entrepreneurs face, Umpqua is funding the launch of BINW’s new, multi-lingual Loan Readiness Center to provide customized technical assistance that moves entrepreneurs from “loan-ready” to “loan-successful.” In addition, BINW will introduce new culturally appropriate loan products that expand access to capital for under-resourced borrowers. BINW provides coaching, education, and access to capital for community small businesses, with an emphasis on working with traditionally underserved populations—entrepreneurial low/moderate income earners, women, BIPOC, veterans, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The program also incorporates a range of offerings and services offered by Umpqua to support a variety of organizations committed to improving access to capital and resources. Among other features, these include:

  • Equity-Equivalent Investments (EQ2s): specialized low-interest loans made to CDFIs to increase the level of affordable financing they can provide to small businesses.
  • Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): uniquely designed to help low- and moderate-income individuals save for a specific purpose—such as starting a small business in their community.
  • Bankers Hours: through in-person and virtual consultations with partner organizations Umpqua bankers provide business expertise and consulting services to entrepreneurs and small business owners, including those seeking to establish their enterprises and transition to a full banking relationship.

Umpqua’s Small Business Empowerment Program is just the latest Umpqua initiative to advance entrepreneurship and business ownership among minorities and women. Last month, the bank also announced an innovative private-public partnership with the State of Washington to provide $15.5 million for the newly formed Small Business Flex Fund, which offers low-cost loans and support through CDFIs for minority-owned businesses. For its focus on equitable lending through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the U.S. Small Business Administration recently recognized Umpqua in its Equity Spotlight series for providing 30% of its 2021 PPP loans to women-owned businesses—double the national average.




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