If you’re a small guitar store or nail salon, or want to sell eyeglasses or cupcakes (real examples) and are looking for $20k to $200k to start up or expand, it’s often a mystery and a slog to find a loan. First you have to figure out where to look. Then the problem becomes contacting so many organizations, finding the right people within them, getting them to give you time, and filling out endless forms. Yet on your success depends the vibrancy of city neighborhoods. The city of Philadelphia wanted to help.
Last July, Jon’s office created a single 2-page document to submit online. It asks the nature of your business or idea, your track record, what capital you need, what you’ll use it for, how much debt you already have—the same things a bank might ask at a sit-down meeting. Jon gets the completed forms, then circulates them to a network his office has assembled of banks, credit unions, reputable online lenders, and community development financial institutions—33 at the moment. No one is turned down, at least without an exhaustive search. So far they’ve received 54 applications, coming from 25 existing businesses and 10 startups, many of which are sole proprietors and none with more than 5 employees. Most have never received a business loan before. Yet 45 have now been contacted by at least one lender, and four loans, totalling $385,000, have already settled. More are in the pipeline.
Jon and a colleague comprise the office tasked with helping find financial resources for small entrepreneurs, and separately also work on a “forgivable loan” program for distressed businesses.
John’s Personal Background
Originally from Cleveland, Jon came to Philly as an undergrad at Penn (’96), returning for a masters in city planning in 2011. In between he saw first hand the struggles and exhilaration of the small business world, working for a law firm and running a coffee shop.
Pizzeria Vetri in Philly on Callowhill or Chancellor, which he loves not just for the thin crust and fresh ingredients, but because they’ve created a charitable foundation to improve access to healthy food options for at-risk citizens in local communities.