Not so long ago a woman couldn’t get a credit card in her own name. Today, as women’s wealth and wages continue to lag behind their male counterparts, access to fair loans remains a challenge for many women. But women in business are a growing force to be reckoned with. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 21% compared to only 9% for all businesses.
Self-Help has a long history of mission-focused loans and investment products that help empower women financially. (See, for example, our focus on lending to quality child care centers and our Women & Children term certificate.) When the COVID pandemic struck, we hit the ground running with relief loans through the Paycheck Protection Program—and we knew that we wanted a strong focus on women-led companies and nonprofits. When the last round of PPP lending wrapped up in August, we had achieved that goal. Nearly half of our PPP loans (47%) went to nonprofits or companies headed by women. Here are just a few examples:
In 1873, the entity that we now know as Bennett College started in the basement of the Warnersville Methodist Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. A few years later, a group of formerly enslaved people bought property and moved the school to its current Greensboro location. Since then, the school has pursued its goal to “focus on the intellectual, spiritual and cultural growth of young women who must be prepared for lifelong learning and leadership.”
The Bennett College 2020 graduating class. (Bennett College photo)
Bennett has graduated many women who have gone on to great achievements in occupations such as business owners, policymakers and artists. Self-Help has a strong connection with Bennett, including through the late Andrea Harris, our partner, colleague and friend, who was a proud Bennett alumna and a strong champion for HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).
Bennett College was a natural fit for Self-Help’s mission-focused COVID relief loans. “Securing PPP funding made a tremendous impact on Bennett College,” said LaDaniel Gatling, VP of Institutional Advancement. “It allowed our faculty and staff to remain fully focused on meeting the needs of our students, which was particularly critical because of our shift to remote learning and the closure of our campus.”
Alem Dickey Keel
Another PPP loan recipient from Greensboro was Alem Dickey Keel (ADK), an interior design firm. The firm is located at Revolution Mill, a former textile mill that Self-Help acquired and renovated to create a multi-use campus for “creative work and creative play.” ADK definitely fits into the creative work segment. The company was founded by three women—Gina Alem, Melinda Bell Dickey and Donna B. Keel—who are dedicated to “creating extraordinary spaces,” serving a growing segment of commercial clients.
This year started with a strong business outlook for ADK, but the positive trend quickly reversed with the onset of COVID. According to Melinda, about “80% of our up-and-coming business just went away,” including restaurants they had expected to serve. She said it was a scary time, especially since she had recently been widowed. She contacted banks where she had personal and ADK accounts, but either their calls were not returned or they were told the bank couldn’t help them.
Then they received an email from Self-Help, as we reached out to our tenants at Revolution Mill. Melinda said the loan process went so smoothly, “it was almost too good to be true.”
Left to right: Melinda Bell Dickey and Gina Alem, two of the partners in Alem Dickey Keel.
“I cannot commend Self-Help enough in how they handled this,” said Melinda. “I understand that the lenders were dealing with unknowns and thrown the information from the government overnight practically and asked to facilitate the loans as best they could. Self-Help did an amazing job!”
Gina Berry Collaborative in Tampa
Another PPP recipient was Gina Berry Collaborative, a woman-owned architecture and planning company located in Tampa, Florida. Gina Berry offers an array of professional services, including project management, master planning and research and development. In recent years the company has served a number of health care provider clients such as Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa), Halifax Health (Volusia County), and Nemours Children’s Hospital (Orlando). The company has a core team of five full-time employees and two collaborating partners.
As COVID-19 turned into a full-fledged pandemic, owner Gina Berry said she was worried about meeting her payroll obligations. With Self-Help’s PPP loan, she was able to cover payroll and avoid furloughing employees, allowing this small business to keep staff focused on the work at hand without interruption.
Gina Berry Collaborative’s team
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To see Self-Help’s overall PPP lending results and meet more of the wonderful nonprofits and businesses that received these relief loans, go here.