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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 2 weeks ago

Fund combines small business loans with advisory services, technical support

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UP Community Fund provides commercial loans to businesses throughout the Southeast.

A new fund, focused on providing loans to minority-owned small businesses, is expanding — with an eye on Florida. 

The organization, Charlotte, N.C.-based Urban Advisors, introduced UP Community Fund to provide commercial loans to businesses throughout the Southeast, with the initial focus on the Carolinas and Georgia. Now CEO David Sharp tells Coffee Talk targeting entrepreneurs in Florida and Virginia is a natural broadening.

Sharp says the fund aims to utilize capital to help empower communities and address a key question: “How can we create some type of mechanism that could be of some benefit to the markets we’re trying to serve?”

He says a first round of funding took place in May, and a number of additional transactions are in the pipeline now.

“We consider ourselves to be generalists so we can operate across industries,” Sharp says. He says often people hear about firms funding technology-based businesses, but there are other types of businesses that need funding, too. And with the right funding, he says, they can increase their growth and create more jobs. “We’re not focusing on startups,” he says. “We usually want companies with two years of history or so.”

Loans generally start at about $250,000. He describes the businesses receiving loans as companies that have been able to get some traction but don’t quite have the resources to grow — companies that aren’t ready for a bank but that have outgrown a micro-lending relationship. “How do they get to the next level? That’s where we come in to support them.”

The relationship doesn’t end with a loan. Urban Advisors also provides businesses advisory services and technical support. That can include help improving vendor relationships, help identifying contract opportunities or someone with whom to brainstorm. “What we’re trying to do is identify where the bottlenecks are and how we can continue to add value,” Sharp says. “We try to be deliberate, understanding what a lot of the pain points are. We are 100% owned by entrepreneurs of color, so we can totally identify with the marketplace.”

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