As a retailer on the North Shore selling locally made items for giveaways, Danielle Landrum calls pandemic-filled 2020 “the year of the lemon”.
“We had a tough year trying to make lemonade from lemons,” said Landrum, who like most retail stores had to shut down their gifts and local produce only in the spring. last in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. “But one of the glasses of lemonade we took advantage of last year was winning the Idea Leap grant to allow us to hire a marketer to help our business adapt and grow.”
Landrum said the Idea Leap program, which provided him with both loans and grants from the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU), helped his 6-year-old business diversify and grow. She said the program has also helped various other small businesses that the retailer buys from stock its local gift boxes.
Indeed, since Chattanooga’s largest credit union launched its microcredit program in 2018 for small businesses needing small loans to grow, the program has funded more than $ 3.8 million in loans to individuals. emerging and start-up businesses in the Chattanooga area. Loans up to $ 50,000 are made to companies referred to the program by technical assistance providers including Bright Bridge Capital, Co.Lab, LAUNCHChattanooga, SCORE, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. offered by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Business College.
Proceeds from these loans and other funds provided by the credit union also funded $ 125,000 in Idea Leap grants to companies chosen by the judges to make the most of the one-time grants.
“Our goal is to help our community and we know these small businesses could one day grow into much bigger businesses,” said Todd Fortner, president of the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union. “We want to make these investments and help these businesses get started.”
Most traditional commercial lenders are not interested in making such small business loans, especially those that don’t have a lot of traditional collateral or at favorable interest rates for the borrower, Fortner said.
Shannon Anderson, co-owner of Chatta-Cakes Bakery, also won one of the $ 7,000 Idea Leap program grants last year.
“Seven thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money for most companies, but for us it was life changing,” Anderson said. “We bought a lot of equipment that really helped with production and one of the best things turned out to be a spinning cake box that has lights to show off what we’re making. Customers really appreciate being able to come in and receive a decorated cake. the place. “
On a rainy Monday morning to kick off National Small Business Week, TVFCU announced it was opening applications to other small businesses to compete for additional Idea Leap grants this year. The credit union will award grants ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 21,000 during Startup Week in October to five winners chosen by a jury.
To be eligible for grants, a business must have been in business for at least one year, have less than $ 1.5 million in annual sales and fewer than 20 employees, and do business in the 13-county area of TVFCU. . On Monday, TVFCU also awarded $ 2,500 in giveaways to the Urban League’s NextLevel program and the UTC Veterans Entrepreneurship program for their efforts to help start-up businesses.
“We want to continue to help small businesses in our area do well,” said Tommy Nix, vice president of business and commercial services who helped develop the Idea Leap program at TVFCU after previously working in Tennessee. Small Business Development Center. “When small businesses are successful, the whole community thrives.”
Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.