Small Business Assistance Center helps future, current business owners
The Cherokee Nation’s Small Business Assistance Center operates under the Commerce Department, helping clients with different financial programs for business, home and savings. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Small Business Assistance Center continues to assist future entrepreneurs and existing small business owners through its lending program.
To help provide financial stability for businesses owners, the program can give loans from $100 up to $500,000 for business start-ups, expansions or equipment purchases.
Stephen Highers, SBAC entrepreneur development manager, said the SBAC is dedicated to the growth of Native-owned companies and pleased to serve and support those businesses through various services.
The services include:
· Access to flexible and affordable capital,
· Business coaching,
· Increased presence in the business community through networking opportunities such as the annual TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) Vendor Fair,
· Bid assistance for CN bids and other governmental bids and general bid instruction,
· Connection to procurement opportunities through www.cherokeebids.org
· Connection to tribal procurement agents and minority diversification departments within large regional businesses and promoting business to business.
The goal for small business lending is not only economic stability for the owner but also economic development in the area of the business, or expanding business, as well as job creation, according to a previous Cherokee Phoenix article.
Potential business owners need to provide a business plan, which includes financial predictions, copies of tax returns to understand where the borrower is financially and credit scores.
“We do require our clients to work with us to produce a business plan that includes financial projections, understanding the business and how the loan proceeds are going to be used,” Highers said. “While we do also pull credit, the credit score isn’t as important to our lending decision as the credit history the report shows.”
Business owners are also given the opportunity to train through the Kawi Café, located on Muskogee Avenue, that allows clients hands-on experience in operating a business.
“We do still operate the Kawi Café program,” Highers said. “We are always looking for participants who would like to train. They can contact Cherokee Nation Career Services to sign up for this program.”
Those looking to borrow, the SBAC is open to any citizen of a federally recognized tribe who resides within the CN reservation and is or will be operating his or her business within the boundaries, Highers said.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Highers said he has not seen a “decrease in the lending need.”
“The reality is we have seen more people turn to us for small business lending throughout the pandemic, as traditional financial institutions have tightened their lending operations,” he said.
In 2019 and to date in 2020, the SBAC has made a significant impact upon Native-owned businesses with more than $1.1 million loaned to Cherokee small business owners and entrepreneurs, leveraging an additional $5.4 million in private dollars throughout northeast Oklahoma.
The SBAC has also loaned $1.7 million in consumer loans for a total of 1,532 loans.
For information, call 918-453-5000.