By Tonya McMurray
One of the biggest
challenges for minority businesses is access to the right capital, at the right
time, to support business growth. The Business Consortium Fund, Inc. (BCF)
seeks to address that challenge by providing both loans and business advice and
education that will empower minority entrepreneurs to maximize business
“We help supply chain
businesses take on debt as a tool for growth,” said Sahra S. Halpern, president
of BCF. “We want to make sure that each business we touch is positioned to
become the strongest supply chain partner that they can become both for their
own growth and also to bring that wealth back into their family and their
BCF was started in 1986 by
corporate members of the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc.
(NMSDC) who recognized that access to capital posed a significant challenge to
their minority suppliers. Those corporate members raised $20 million in seed
funding and BCF used that money over the next 35 years to fund a variety of loans
and grants for minority business enterprises (MBEs).
Halpern joined the
organization in September 2021 to help recapitalize the fund so BCF could
continue its mission of providing capital to minority entrepreneurs. In the two
years since Halpern came aboard, the organization has raised another $20
“Black, Hispanic and Asian
borrowers still have less than 30% of their financing needs met by banks,
including Black borrowers who only have 16% of their financing needs met. White
borrowers, on the other hand, have 48% of their financing needs met,” Halpern
said. (Source: Federal Reserve Banks 2021 Small Business Credit Survey)
We are here to close that
gap,” she added.
A friendly lender
BCF offers both micro
loans of between $15,000 and $100,000 and small business loans from $100,000 to
$1 million. Regardless of the loan amount, BCF aims to make the loan process
easy and comfortable for MBEs.
“Studies show that
minority business owners are often more reluctant to go to bank because of the
disparities that have existed,” Halpern said. “Often when a business comes to
us, they’ve either been denied by a bank, or they haven’t really engaged in the
financial system. We’re often seen as being a friendly lender. We structure our
loans for the benefit of our clients, and we want them to understand that from
our first interaction.”
Every loan application at
BCF starts with a consultation designed not only to help the business
understand the loan process and what they can afford to borrow, but also to
create a plan for how the loan will help them grow and prosper.
“We don’t want to have our
loans be smoothing the cash flow from last year’s misses,” Halpern said. “We
want every dollar to have the purpose of creating success for the future. And
it’s not just strengthening the balance sheet. It’s also making sure they have
the right policies and practices in place so they can be supply chain partners
that other businesses will be able to depend on.”
Unlike a traditional bank,
BCF partners with MBEs throughout the life of the loan, even offering help if
the business runs into issues with repayment.
“We are not a bank, so we
don’t need to immediately put a troubled borrower into default,” Halpern said.
“We’re going to work with them, help them get back upright and be able to
repay. We’re willing to do that because the purpose of the loan is to help the
small business to grow. We want to make sure MBEs know that if they come to
BCF, they are going to be the beneficiary of tools for growth.”
To learn more about The
Business Consortium Fund, visit bcfcapital.com.