Small businesses have always been a source of strength for their communities. In addition to providing valuable goods and services, they tend to offer more stable employment, and they support local organizations in large and small ways. When a school has a fundraising event, national chains typically don't show up. Local small businesses do. They consider community support a vital component of their brand development. Small businesses may have smaller profits, but according to a recent survey, small businesses actually donate 250% more than larger businesses to important causes and nonprofits in their local community.
Big box retailers and internet-based businesses have flooded every corner of rural America, and they are able to offer a buying experience that is often difficult for smaller businesses to compete with. But small businesses offer something that large chains can't. They contribute to their community's unique character. They revitalize downtowns. They make their communities better places to live.
Small businesses have always found ways to give to their communities, so United Way of Central Minnesota recently launched a program to make that giving easier and more rewarding.
SMALL BUSINESS UNITED 365
Small Business United 365 (SBU365) is a United Way initiative designed to help Central Minnesota small business owners strategically invest in their communities. While many small business owners have an intuitive understanding of how a community's success is ultimately linked to their own, the program also offers more tangible, short-term benefits to its members. SBU365 helps business owners share their brand story, highlight their role as community leaders, connect with other entrepreneurs, and share valuable insights and ideas. Joining SBU365 is easy, and United Way encourages business owners to indicate special areas of interest and expertise so that their talents can be put to good use.
Current SBU365 members include the following businesses:
- Eyecon Graphics
- Minnwest Bank
- Chiropractic Performance Center
- Envision Capital
- Money Matters Accounting Solutions
- Advantage 1 Insurance Agency
- FaceTime Resources
- American Door Works
- AIS Planning
THE HOMEBASE MICROLOAN INITIATIVE
Many families in central Minnesota are unable to access safe, affordable housing. While individual families differ and have their own set of challenges, one of the most common barriers to stable housing is also the most easily addressed: rental deposits.
For many families who live paycheck to paycheck, even a small emergency can threaten housing stability. Once one apartment is lost, it can be very expensive to find the next one as rent prices have soared, and with them, rental deposits. In response, SBU365 has recently launched the HomeBASE Microloan Initiative to break down this common barrier to finding housing. BASE is an acronym that stands for Break barriers, Address Inequities, Secure housing and Encourage sustainability.
How Does It Work?
HomeBASE microloans are by referral only; if a local nonprofit identifies an individual that may be a good fit for the program, a pre-screening checklist is the next step. After that, SBU365 member Minnwest Bank will contact the individual to complete the loan. The maximum an individual can receive from a HomeBASE loan is $1,200, and the program currently has funds to cover roughly 20 to 25 loans a year.
SBU365 guarantees each loan, and pays the application fee and interest. Therefore, if an individual borrows $1,200, that's exactly what they'll pay back, and nothing more. Because these microloans are designated for rental deposits, the funds go directly to landlords. But once the loan is repaid, tenants could get a portion or the entirety of their deposits back when they move. That same microloan could potentially be used for future rental deposits, therefore eliminating one of the most common reasons for housing insecurity throughout central Minnesota.
What Can Your Business Do?
There's a famous saying that's been attributed to many famous wits, including Benjamin Franklin and Lucille Ball: "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." While the quip's actual source is unknown, it's nevertheless true. Small business owners are notoriously busy, yet still manage, time and time again, to show up for their communities. They will happily walk in every small town's homecoming parade, staff carnival booths and donate prizes for an almost infinite number of raffles.
It's pretty amazing what small business owners can do all by themselves. But it's even more amazing what they can do together. If you own a small business and would like to invest your time, talents and treasures in the community you serve, SBU365 would love to have you.