Greater Milwaukee Foundation has deployed $780,000 in small business loans since May

Melissa Goins, president of Maures Development Group, which received a small business loan. (Credit: Jim Moy)
Melissa Goins, president of Maures Development Group, which received a small business loan. (Credit: Jim Moy)

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation has deployed small business loans to 17 Milwaukee businesses located primarily in three north side neighborhoods.

The foundation’s ThriveOn small business loan program, which launched in May, aims to distribute $1 million, with priority going to businesses in the Harambee, Halyard Park and Brewers Hill neighborhoods in Milwaukee, and to Black- and brown-owned ventures.

To date, GMF has awarded $780,000 in low-interest loans, ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. The capital is allowing businesses to reopen, hire, or sustain and improve business operations, GMF said.

About 40 jobs are expected to be created or re-established because of the funding.

Nearly 80% of businesses that have been awarded grants are located in the three prioritized north side neighborhoods, and all are owned by people of color.

“Thriving neighborhoods rely on thriving small businesses for employment, for accessible products and services, and to attract economic activity and momentum,” said Kenneth Robertson, executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer for GMF. “The foundation is well aware that Black- and Brown-owned businesses already face systemic barriers to accessing funding, so when we saw the disproportionate impact the pandemic was having on small businesses in Milwaukee neighborhoods, we knew we had to think different and act quickly. We’re glad we were able to mobilize these dollars as a form of relief and potential growth for owners in our community.”

Of the businesses approved for funding, 28% are in retail, 24% are specialty businesses, 18% are in the restaurant or food industry, 18% are in commercial real estate and 12% are in health care. Half of the businesses were temporarily closed when they applied for a loan.

Loan recipients include:

  • Ajas Beauty and Wellness Boutique
  • Bijou Nails & Company
  • Colorful Connections
  • Cool Beauty
  • Cream City Print Lounge
  • Dolled
  • Edwards Ingenuity
  • Ilashout Beauty Co.
  • JGSJ Optimum Health
  • Maures Development Group
  • MLK 1920
  • P3 Development Group
  • PepperPot CateringMKE
  • Rise & Grind
  • Santari (Reynolds Pasty Shop)
  • Transformation Services, Inc.
  • Vogue Dreams

Of a pool of over 150 potentially eligible businesses that were invited to community meetings and events, 33 applied for funding, and 17 closed on their loans.

The ThriveOn small business loans are part of GMF’s $30 million commitment over five years through its impact investing program. To date, the foundation has invested $12 million through the program, including $10 million that was directed to the ThriveOn King restoration and renovation project and a $1 million investment in Gateway Capital to support pre-revenue startups in Milwaukee.

“Our generous donors have played a key role in making the ThriveOn Small Business Loans possible, committing over $500,000 to the effort,” said Ellen Gilligan, foundation president and CEO. “Overall, the foundation has received more than $1.4 million for its impact investing program. This level of partnership demonstrates our shared values and collective interest in reimaging philanthropy to realize a thriving Milwaukee for all.”

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Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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