JVS Chicago Offers Low-interest Loans to Entrepreneurs

If you are an entrepreneur who dreams of starting your own business and are willing to work to transform that dream into reality, JVS Chicago’s Duman Entrepreneurship Center can help with a combination of hands-on technical assistance, training in business operations and a three-year, very low-interest loan to get the business started.

Entrepreneurs who have a solid business plan, twelve months of realistic cash flow projections and some some relevant business experience can qualify to receive a low-interest small business loan up to a maximum of $15,000. Advisors are available to deliver practical guidance and advice and meet one-on-one with clients to help build the required documents. Once completed, the loan package is presented to a Loan Approval Committee. The Duman Loan Committee makes the final decision to reject or approve an application.

“The overall goal of the program is to contribute to the economic self-sufficiency of low-income clients and their families,” said Smilovitch, “by assisting eligible clients to start or expand a business.” Existing businesses may be doing well, but just need that extra push to help them move to the next level. For example, a potential candidate might be the small bakery that needs additional capital to purchase new equipment or a delivery van in order to expand its operations, but are unable to secure conventional credit.

Applicants must follow a procedure similar to applying for a business loan from a bank.

“The loan requires a comprehensive business plan and other financial documentation as well as a 20 percent equity investment on behalf of the recipient,” Smilovitch said. “A complete business analysis is typically conducted to evaluate financial strength, credit history and management capabilities.”

For those who have all the required information, the process can be faster, Smilovitch said. For those that are new to the process, the Duman Center can help build the required documentation with one-on-one advice and workshops.

Shelby Parchman, a Senior Business Analyst who works on loan applications, explained the process. “Once you express interest in a loan, I will contact you, do an initial screening of your business and assess your needs,” he said. “If you have a business plan, you can forward it to me prior to our meeting. When we meet, you’ll provide a comprehensive overview of your business and then we discuss that in relation to your business plan.”

The next steps are to set an action plan that will require any adjustments to the business plan, Parchman said. Once a loan applicant’s business plan is 90 percent complete, “we can go to the loan document process.”

Most of the loans are for less than $15,000 and for no longer than three years. There is a $50 application fee. No collateral is needed, Parchman said, but there will be a UCC filing placed on business assets.

Once assembled, the loan package is presented to a loan approval committee who make the ultimate decision. The committee meets every other month, depending on the volume of loan requests.

The loan fund—an endowment created by Louis Duman for whom the Duman Entrepreneurship Center is named—provides low-interest loans to eligible entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.