Despite Colorado Lending Source receiving consistent recognition as a top ten lender of its kind in the nation, Executive Director, Mike O'Donnell, felt there was more the organization could do to fulfill its mission and help small businesses thrive.
It was no secret that access to capital for small business owners was not an even playing field, especially for underserved entrepreneurs. Given that Mike believed people were more than just a credit score, he was determined to find a solution to this problem.
In 2017 Mike rebranded the Colorado Main Street loan program to be character-based. This meant creating an innovative application process where applicants present details about their business to Colorado Lending Source’s Internal Loan Review Committee comprised of staff members across all departments. This allows the committee to have a clearer picture of the overall project and to have a better understanding of the individual.
The funds from the original Colorado Main Street loan program had been exhausted, so Mike looked to community partners to secure funding for this new version of the program. He secured approximately a half a million dollars from four sources: Mutual of Omaha Bank, Home State Bank, the Kenneth King Foundation, and the US Department of Agriculture. In the reinvigorated program’s first year, Colorado Lending Source approved 23 Colorado Main Street loans, creating 124 new jobs and injecting nearly $1 million into businesses representing underserved markets.
One of the first (new) Colorado Main Street loans was Caring Kids Preschool. Mother of two, Jennifer Knott, had just move to rural Rifle, Colorado and was looking for a daycare with services for both toddlers and infants. Much to her surprise, there was no such facility within 30 miles of town! As she became acquainted with other families in Rifle, Jennifer discovered that she wasn’t the only mother experiencing this frustration, which prompted her to open Caring Kids Preschool.
Jennifer secured a Colorado Main Street loan to help with startup costs, purchase equipment and provide working capital to get her business off the ground. Within the first month Caring Kids was at full capacity, with a growing waitlist. The following year, she returned to the organization for another Colorado Main Street loan to open Caring Kids Preschool’s second location in Silt, less than 10 miles away.