The Opportunity Fund – Providing Opportunities to Underserved Small Businesses

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The ability to obtain a loan can be a make it or break it moment for many small businesses.  Receiving necessary funding is often the difference between traveling down the path to success or winding up at a dead end.  And while the world of small business loans can be difficult to navigate for any small business, it is often met with additional struggles for those owned and operated by women, immigrants, and other underserved minority groups.  Recognizing that a disparity exists amongst small businesses who face factors out of their control, organizations have come into existence to help level the playing field.  One such organization is the Opportunity Fund.

Who is the Opportunity Fund?

Touted as the nation’s leading nonprofit business lender, the Opportunity Fund has been providing underserved small business owners with microloans for the better part of 25 years.  Originating in 1994, the organization was founded in an effort to ensure that those small business owners often overlooked by mainstream lenders had a fair chance at getting the funding necessary to start and grow their businesses.

What Funding Opportunities Do They Provide?

The Opportunity Fund provides loans to small businesses with amounts ranging from $2,600 to $250,000.  Microloans of $50,000 or less make up the majority of loans provided to small business owners, however, the organization does provide larger loans, but only for small businesses that do not qualify for a bank loan.  As a nonprofit lender, the organization is able to offer loans with terms more favorable than those typically provided to small businesses, including longer repayment terms and lower interest rates.  These loans are typically provided to minority and women-owned small businesses operating in underserved and low-income communities. 

While the Opportunity Fund lends to a variety of small businesses, with the exception of a few, the majority of lending is provided to those in the fields of:

  • Mobile Food

  • Restaurants

  • Caterers

  • Day Care

  • Elder Care

  • Retail

  • Auto repair

  • Nail Salons

  • Owner Operated Trucking

Funding can be used for a number of activities including expansion efforts, working capital, building improvements, debt refinancing, and more. 

How Does the Opportunity Fund Differ from Other Lenders?

What sets Opportunity Fund small business loans apart from others is the decision making process backing each loan made.  Typical underwriting for loans is both detailed and costly.  For those reasons, when it comes to microloans, for-profit lenders will often consider an applicant’s personal credit score and cash inflow as the deciding factors for loan approval.  The unfortunate result of basing decisions solely on those key pieces of information is it alienates disadvantaged small business owners who often face challenges that can negatively impact their candidacy profile for loan approval.  The Opportunity Fund is in the position to apply a more in-depth review of potential borrowers and any extenuating circumstances that have affected their profile for loan candidacy.  In doing so, they are able to approve loans with low interest rates for candidates whom would have otherwise been turned down by most lenders, or approved but with a higher than average interest rate.

Do They Offer COVID-19 Specific Resources?

In an effort to provide small businesses with support during these challenging times, the Opportunity Fund has:

  • Offered targeted assistance to existing customers who have been impacted by COVID-19, encouraging them to reach out via the contact information provided here.

  • Continued to offer new financing to those interested in exploring the organization’s funding opportunities.

  • Created the Small Business Relief Fund in which all donations made to the fund will go to supporting underserved small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

  • Provided a list of resources on their website that includes links to informative webinars, alternative funding programs offered by other providers, additional organizations that provide support to small businesses, and more.

The Opportunity Fund serves to help bridge the funding gap that some disadvantaged small business owners find themselves falling into.  Making sure all small businesses have access to funding opportunities is important now more than ever, as access to funding will be critical in helping small businesses survive the financial impact of COVID-19.  More information on the Opportunity Fund can be found on their website at www.opportunityfund.org.