What is Accion?
The idea for Accion was conceived by UC Berkeley law student Joseph Blatchford in 1961. After traveling across Latin America as part of a tennis and jazz tour, Blatchford started thinking about how Americans could better support disenfranchised communities, eventually sourcing the root of the problem as a lack of economic opportunity.
The growing Accion team experimented with microloans on a large scale for the first time in 1973 in Recife, Brazil. In less than five years, the organization had doled out 885 loans and stabilized 1,386. This program, which proved to be greatly successful in Latin America, was brought back to the United States in 1991, where it has supported national business in addition to international business ever since.
The ultimate goal of this program is to financially empower people who are underserved by revolutionizing financial services and facilitating access. “Our mission is to give people the financial tools they need to improve their lives,” reads the website. This is accomplished through a four-pronged approach which includes advising, investing, partnering, and influencing.
Today, Accion reaches tens of millions of families and entrepreneurs in 50 countries and boasts a network of over 110 partners, according to its website.
As “the largest nationwide nonprofit lending network … [providing] fair and flexible loans, connections to business experts and access to resources and opportunities specifically tailored to each business owner’s unique needs and goals,” according to its website, it’s no surprise that much of Accion’s core offerings center around microloans. However, loans aren’t the only useful resource Accion has to offer.
On the Accion US website, you can access certain business resources like articles, videos, and webinars offering financial expertise. Additionally, you can peruse the upcoming Accion-hosted events designed to showcase fellow entrepreneurs, facilitate networking, and connect you with industry experts.
Accion reaches small businesses across the U.S. through both online and in-person communities, including three regional lending organizations in Southern California, the East Coast, Illinois, and Indiana.
If your needs extend beyond a webinar on marketing, you can take advantage of Accion’s numerous unique programs and mentorship opportunities. For example, the Accion Financial Wellness Center is an online destination for tips on financial help.
More involved programs include the 10-week San Diego-based Accion Academic for Entrepreneurial Success and The Hatchery, which offer employment and training opportunities to Chicago-based businesses.
Accion also offers free, one-on-one financial coaching for loan recipients through its partners at Neighbourhood Trust as part of the TrustPlus Financial Coaching program.
As a historically underserved demographic, Accion also has services directed specifically toward women in business. Women can benefit from in-person networking events, where they can build communities, as well as some of the online resources that tackle problems specific to women in business.
In particular, female entrepreneurs can benefit from the loans that Accion offers to small businesses. Artist Natasha Wozniak notes how an Accion microloan benefited her business: “In 2010, I needed help raising capital but had trouble obtaining a traditional bank loan. I found Accion, applied through the website and was quickly approved for a $5,000 loan. Accion’s financial advisors also worked with me on business principles and helped me formulate a plan for business growth.”
Zooming in on Microloans
We’ve mentioned them a couple of times, but what exactly are Accion’s microloans? And how can you qualify for them for your business? Accion loans are provided to qualifying small businesses and range between $300 and $250,000 (the organization will work with your company to select a size strategically).
These loans are unique for a number of reasons, but stand out primarily because of the attention that Accion’s experts will give to your individual business throughout the process. Accion has loans for every type of business, including:
- Women-Owned Business Loans
- Veteran-Owned Business Loans
- Startup Business Loans
- Salon and Spa Loans
- Restaurant and Food Industry Loans
- Native American Business Loans
- Green Business Loans
Qualifications for the loans depends on your location. Type in your business zip code in the “See If I Qualify” section of the website to learn about the specific requirements for your area, including cash flow needs and a minimum credit score. There is also a list of general Accion loan requirement criteria, which includes:
- Be no more than 30 days late on any bills, loans, credit cards, or any other payments (if late, total balance must be under $3,000)
- Must not have declared bankruptcy in past year or gone through foreclosure in past two years
- Startups need a partner referral from SCORE or the Small Business Development Center and must have a business plan with a 12-month cash flow projections
- Must not have any mortgage-rate adjustments due during the term of the loan or any late rate/mortgage payments in past year
Accion lends to businesses and startups in a variety of industries, so as long as you meet the qualifications, it is worth applying. You can either apply online, over the phone or in person, and once you’ve submitted the materials, you’ll hear back from Accion within two business days.
If your company is determined to be a good fit, a member of the Accion lending team will contact you to work one-on-one on creating the strongest loan application possible, which will require documentation confirming the information in your application as well as other business documents.
If your company doesn’t receive the loan, you will receive information about the weak points in your application and will be eligible to re-apply in three to six months.
Before you apply for the traditional Accion loans, take a look at the local offers listed on Accion’s website. Here you can find a slew of financing opportunities for businesses in specific regions. For example, the Upper Manhattan Business Loan loans up to $50,000 at a reduced rate of 4.99 percent to New York-based businesses.
If you have any more questions, contact your local Accion branch by searching your zip code on the contact page or call (866) 245-0783.