After a head-on car crash left Alice Brown disabled, Wildfire Credit Union helped her create a new business to aid others with injuries.
Brown designed a knee brace that aims to relieve pain while restoring normal movement, the Michigan Credit Union League and Affiliates said. She planned to sell the item online.
While she had overcome a physical injury, Brown said getting the capital to get her business up and running proved to be another obstacle.
Enter the $644 million Wildfire CU in Saginaw, Mich. The cooperative approved a small business loan to help launch Brown’s new company, In The Groove. The funds helped her market the knee brace through her online company and she was able to hire four full-time employees and one part-time employee.
“Thanks to Wildfire’s support, I’ve been given the opportunity to bring my knee brace to people who need it while creating jobs and contributing to the local economy,” Brown said. “Without the help and support from my credit union, I never would have been able to see my idea through.”
Linda McGee, Wildfire vice president of membership development, said the credit union welcomed the opportunity to finance Brown’s budding business.
“Local innovators provide the new ideas that drive economic growth and create new jobs. The more we can lend to small businesses, the more positive the impact on our local economy,” McGee said.
The Michigan league is applauding Brown and Wildfire CU saying capital access has become a national trend within the credit union industry.
For the first time ever, credit unions’ small business loans surpassed $1 billion in Michigan earlier this year, the league reported. Member business loan growth in the state was 29% as of June 30, according to NCUA data. The league said during the same 12-month period, Michigan banks’ small business lending dropped 10.1%.
“Credit unions are stepping up to lend as other institutions are stepping back,” said David Adams, CEO of the Michigan league. “Small businesses continue to struggle with access to low-cost capital and credit unions are providing a good alternative for certain types of small business loans.”