LEND, the student-run non-profit out of Northwestern University, provides microloans and business training services to Evanston entrepreneurs. Serving primarily low-income women, LEND most often helps entrepreneurs transition businesses like salons, paint contractors, or boutique jewelers to the next stage. LEND leverages existing community assets—municipal officials, community leaders, and social service organizations, among many others—as well as their own resources to help entrepreneurs create, invest, and safeguard assets in the form of a storefront, a car, or equipment.
The LEND process involves hands-on staff support, comprehensive business training, and affordable loans. 2 to 3 staff members meet with each LEND client at least once a month, and every client receives personalized business training for at least 8 to 10 weeks. Lend Account Managers and Business Training Ambassadors go beyond collecting payments and simply reviewing documents to understand the status of the business and then actively work with clients to analyze issues and implement solutions. LEND’s small dollar loans range from $500 to $5,000 and come with very low APR complete with a 1 to 2 year payback period. Through these manageable loan characteristics and hands-on support, LEND has managed to achieve a 100% loan repayment rate.
As LEND adds new staff members to handle increasing numbers of microloans and business training clients, they hope to simultaneously respond to the community of Evanston’s needs by expanding their lending and business training services to women, lower-income/low-credit entrepreneurs, and ex-offenders among others. While LEND raised much of its initial capital from private donors during fundraising campaigns, they are looking to tap more traditional, reliable sources of funding—especially grants from foundations, corporations, and government. As they expand and seek out new parnters, they continue to grow existing relationships with organization like CEDA, SCORE, and YWCA. LEND is a special program as the staff, entirely composed of Northwestern University students, commits such significant time and effort with each client. It is clear just how seriously they take their mission to uplift the economic fortunes of Evanston’s entrepreneur class. The LEND program is a win-win as Northwestern business students gain valuable business training and consulting skills while simultaneously helping low- and moderate-income residents transition their businesses to the next stage and achieve financial independence.
LEND is based out of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois