Micro-Loans for Budding Entrepreneurs
For some Gen Yers, the call to be their own boss is much stronger than working for someone else.
The drive may be there, but given their age and sometimes scant credit history, the money to start a business may not. An effort launched by some of Canada’s credit unions is hoping to meet Gen Yers where there are with their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs.
Through the “Remarkable Micro-Loan” program, 45 credit unions in British Columbia are asking young adults ages 18 to 29 to share their business ideas and goals. Those with the best ideas will be rewarded with a micro-loan up to $5,000.
The credit unions will provide financial support and guidance to help recipients to pay back the loan, while also helping them build a solid credit history, according to Central 1 Credit Union, based in Toronto, Ontario, which is leading the effort. The credit union represents 2.9 million members at credit unions in British Columbia and Ontario with total assets of $70 billion.
Loans are granted based on the merit of the customer’s idea for building community and promoting social change rather than their credit rating or size of their assets.
Designed for young people with little or no credit history, the loan’s interest rate is prime plus one percentage point, and it has a flexible payment schedule. Applicants must be British Columbia residents but are not required to be current credit union members. For the first 24 months of the loan, recipients make payments on the interest portion.
Since the program launched, loans have been distributed to young entrepreneurs from fashion designers and landscapers to shop owners and food truck operators, according to credit union officials.
The $2 billion Coastal Community Credit Union on Vancouver Island in British Columbia signed on with the Remarkable Loan program when it made its debut in March 2011, said Andrea van Rossum, advertising and promotions specialist. Since then, the credit union has approved $10,000 in micro-loans.
“We’re giving an opportunity to people who really have these big dreams, to live them,” Rossum said.
From construction startups to a children consignment shop, Coastal Community views its participation in the micro-loan program as a part of the credit union’s focus on honest, community and trust–all values she’s found that young adults cherish.
Because the loans are not based on credit scores, Rossum said the applicants have a sense of confidence often after coming from banks that have turned their loan requests down. “All of the [businesses] are community-based,” Rossum said. “This program is helping to meet our mission.”
Be Remarkable is using social media such as Facebook, YouTube and other online channels to promote the campaign, including a series of videos called “Remarkable Stories” that promote credit unions and feature some of the successful loan recipients and their projects, and how credit unions made
The micro-loan program is part of a larger Be Remarkable communications and marketing program led by Central 1 on behalf of the Credit Unions of British Columbia to help build the credit union brand.
With $2.7 billion in assets under administration North Shore Credit Union in North Vancouver, British Columbia, is also offering the loans, said Catharine Downes, assistant vice president of marketing. One of their success stories is a young entrepreneur who launched an ecofriendly lawn service. The 29-year old man previously paid to rent equipment. With the micro-loan, he was able to buy his own equipment.
“The genesis is to build awareness and a greater understanding from that 18 to 29 age group who have very little or no understanding of credit unions,” Downes said.