The U.S. economy is in dire need of more women- and minority-owned small businesses. Local nonprofit Opportunity Finance Network wants to help make funding options more accessible to them with a new mobile platform it’s calling Venturize.
An abundance of “quick and easy” online lenders have popped up since the Recession, said Lauren Stebbins, senior associate of small business initiatives at OFN. Venturize aims to help small business owners compare financing options and figure out which loans are best for their business based on individual needs.
The product prides itself on being unbiased in connecting small business owners to lenders.
“We’re not recommending any specific lenders, we’re not telling them which loans they should go after, we’re not trying to gear them in any way or sell them anything,” Stebbins said. “We’re simply trying to provide them with straightforward, clear, easy to access information to really help them decide what’s the best move in terms of borrowing money.”
Plus, there’s a glossary to help business owners navigate terms and definitions and a checklist to make sure business owners have everything they need in place before applying for a loan. Venturize, Stebbins said, exists to make resources easily accessible and push small business owners to make more “confident and informed” borrowing decisions.
Venturize is free to use (with premium features) and funded by Sam’s Club‘s corporate social responsibility initiative. Stebbins said OFN hopes to reach at least 250,000 small business owners.
And while it’s an inclusive platform available to all small business owners across the country regardless of gender or race, Venturize’s target demographic is small businesses owned by women and people of color to break down the barriers that have historically prohibited those business owners from obtaining capital.
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“Those are two segments of small business owners that have had the most trouble accessing capital,” said Stebbins. “We’re particularly trying to make this information more accessible for them and really help them figure out what the options are, knowing that there are other options than just the bank.”