When Nathanial Owen pulled his U-Haul into San Francisco in mid-July, he knew he had left behind 2,000+ miles, humid weather . . . and a history of success. As the Market Manager at Accion Texas’ Memphis office—part of the largest microlending organization in the country—Owen had funded 56 small businesses in the first 18 months of operations, ensuring Accion’s new office was on the right path.
MEDA’s newly hired Community Loan Fund Director also knew he faced an exciting challenge in the Bay Area–that of launching the nonprofit’s nascent loan program that is poised to help the Mission grow, starting in January 2015. MEDA was the recipient of an $800,000 Community Economic Development (CED) federal grant to launch this innovative community loan fund.
An enthusiastic Owen, who attended the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, explains his move: “I was drawn to MEDA for several reasons, but the biggest motivation was the opportunity to craft innovative financial solutions for low-income families. I have worked in microfinance for several years, but always wanted to be part of an organization that was addressing economic opportunity in a holistic way. That is exactly what MEDA is doing through its asset development work. When the opportunity was presented to build off that work by coupling financial coaching with fair and accessible lending products for Mission families, it was the icing on the cake.”
Currently, Owen spends his busy days building the infrastructure to support MEDA’s microloan fund. Because of the broad range of technical assistance and financial-capability coaching offered for free at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante, service integration between lending and coaching is central to the design of the loan fund.
Additionally, Owen has the responsibility for implementing the loan fund’s capitalization strategy, with the goal of growing the loan fund through investments from financial institutions, corporations, foundations, individual investors and donors.
Initial plans call for a microloan product that will range from $1,000 to $50,000, with flexible terms, below-market rates and underwriting criteria designed to provide easier access to capital for MEDA’s small-business clients.
“I see this loan fund as a tool for preserving the opportunity for low-income families to start and grow their small businesses right here in the Mission,” explains an optimistic Owen.
By tapping into his past microlending experience, Owen is rolling up his sleeves to meet this latest challenge of his professional career–all for the betterment of the community.