The disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on small business owners who are women and/or Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) has been well-researched and documented. A survey conducted by Main Street America from May to August 2020 showed that as many as 7.5 million small businesses were at risk of closing permanently by the end of that year. A subsequent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research noted a 41% decline in Black-owned businesses and a 25% drop for women-owned businesses due to the pandemic.

In response to the clear need for additional funding support for impacted women- and BIPOC-owned small businesses, VCC launched the Economic Equity Fund in the fall of 2020 (then called the Open for Business Loan Fund) with initial support from Wells Fargo. In the beginning, the Fund was meant to assist those in the Richmond region. Thanks to multiple new funders, it has since grown to $10 million and provides low-cost financing for women- and BIPOC-owned small businesses across the Commonwealth. In addition to low-interest loans for borrowers, resources have been allocated to offer free technical assistance and consulting for eligible small businesses and nonprofits.

Since its inception, over $3.3 million has been deployed via the Economic Equity Fund, many hours of technical assistance have been recorded, and VCC has added two Economic Equity loan officers to its team. Perhaps most importantly, the Fund has motivated us to evaluate traditional lending and underwriting practices, such as credit standards and policies, so we can deepen our impact in the small business community.

We believe expansion and influence of our Economic Equity Fund is a perfect example of striving for “more than a moment.” We’re taking lessons learned from what was once an emergency response and ensuring that equitable practices are embedded in our business model. That is the community development finance movement in action.

Learn more about the Economic Equity Fund here.