February 26, 2016

Community Capital of Vt. starts new program

Community Capital of Vermont, or CCVT, has established a business advisory services program to support its borrowers. The program was funded in 2015 by a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA.
CCVT, a nonprofit organization located in Barre, has a mission “to help small businesses and lower-income entrepreneurs prosper through the provision of flexible business financing.”
Executive Director Martin Hahn said the new program grew out of CCVT’s existing support for its borrowers. It provides free, targeted, short- or long-term assistance to borrowers and also pays for services such as marketing assistance, legal advice or Quickbooks training. CCVT’s grant grew from $50,000 three years ago to $120,000 in 2015; Hahn said the grant amount is based on the amount of capital they loaned the previous year. CCVT loaned $1 million in 2015; the median loan amount was $10,000.
Hahn explained that as a mission-based lender, CCVT takes on a higher level of risk than commercial lenders, but said that although CCVT charged off about three percent of its loans in 2014, its charge-off rate is still only about half the national average for microlenders. The organization is working with 130 businesses around the state.
The increased funding from the SBA allowed CCVT to establish its new business advisory services program and to hire David Parker as a business advisor. Hahn said Parker has exceptional experience in the small business and food industries.
Parker, who owns four Subway sandwich shops, said, “I’ve hired and trained over 700 people since 1988, when I started. I have a lot of Main Street experience dealing with customers, vendors, employers, state of Vermont permitting, town offices.” He said “Main Street” experience “means working 363 days a year to take care of customers and support the community.”
Parker’s role is to develop plans with borrowers and connect them with resources.
“I meet the borrower at the closing table, and I work with them to move them forward and deal with any issues that might arise, so that they can focus on running their business,” he explained.
Parker said the organization deals specifically with start-up businesses and low-income entrepreneurs, but that borrowers do not need to fit those categories.
Financial literacy and marketing are common themes in business advising, according to Parker. Business owners may need training to understand Quickbooks, cash flow, or cost analysis, or they may need help generating reports and looking closely at them to determine the health of the business, he said. “We look for economical ways for our borrowers to get their name out, network with people, and try to further their business, from social media to traditional media like radio and television, or Front Porch Forum,” he said.
CCVT was named the Vermont’s SBA Microlender of the Year in 2015 and 2014 (highest volume microlender). Asked about the organization’s success, Hahn responded, “We are a sharp organization, and we are focused on excellence … We treat our borrowers with a high degree of respect, we are transparent about our products, and we try to be as efficient as possible with our borrowers.”
Interested business owners can get in touch with CCVT through its website, www.communitycapitalvt.org. Its office is located at 105 North Main Street, Suite 305, in Barre.

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