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Finance & Investment
Umpqua Bank Offers $2M Infusion to Support Minority, Women Entrepreneurs

Through a series of multi-year partnerships with business-focused nonprofits, Umpqua aims to close the opportunity gap in access to capital, resources, and expertise for traditionally underserved innovators.

Today, Umpqua Bank — headquartered in Roseburg, Oregon; with locations across Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada — launched a program that expands access to capital, resources, and expertise for minority and women entrepreneurs.

Umpqua Bank's Small Business Empowerment Program builds on existing private and public partnerships — including strategic initiatives with numerous business-focused nonprofits and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) — to advance economic equality and opportunity for entrepreneurs in historically underserved communities.

As part of the program, the Bank has formed multi-year partnerships with four organizations dedicated to removing barriers to key areas of business support, including access to technology, low-cost financing, and technical assistance and expertise: Oregon-based MESO (Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon); Washington-based Business Impact NW; and California-based Centro Community Partners and Kiva.

According to Umpqua chief marketing communications officer Eve Callahan, the program and newly formed partnerships address an opportunity gap in equitable access to funding and expertise essential to the viability and success of any business, especially those in communities lacking critical resources and support services.

"Entrepreneurs and small business owners create incredible opportunity and prosperity in our communities, but historical barriers continue to exist that prevent many from accessing what they need for success. Partnerships that take a multi-faceted, collaborative approach to close this opportunity gap are essential to give every entrepreneur with good ideas and determination a chance to succeed," said Callahan. "We're really pleased to announce the Umpqua Bank Small Business Empowerment Program and the strategic partnerships with these terrific organizations. Together, they're advancing some of the most innovative, creative and comprehensive approaches to addressing one of the biggest obstacles to prosperity many communities face."

Here is how each partnership will enhance access to economic opportunity:

  • Kiva: Access to capital. Since 2005, Kiva has been a leader in supporting women and minority entrepreneurs around the world with crowdfunded loans that unlock capital for the underserved, improve the cost of financial services, and address underlying barriers to financial access. Thanks to the new partnership, Umpqua is establishing an Umpqua Bank Managed Loan Fund, enabling women and minority entrepreneurs in Umpqua's footprint to access matched funds and obtain 0 percent interest, crowdfunded loans.

  • Centro Community Partners: Access to expertise and tools. Centro works with entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Its award-winning business-planning app provides entrepreneurs with affordable, culturally appropriate and high-impact, enterprise-building tools. Umpqua is funding a significant expansion of Centro's tech hub and a bilingual mobile app for small businesses over the next three years; as well as the expansion of Centro Capital Hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area, connecting hundreds of entrepreneurs with 0 percent Umpqua Bank Managed Loan Fund loans through Kiva.

  • MESO: Geographic expansion. MESO elevates and empowers historically excluded entrepreneurs with tailored business assistance and flexible capital to build family wealth through business ownership. Umpqua is working closely with MESO to expand services in Southern Oregon — including a satellite office in Jackson County with bilingual loan services and access to new microenterprise tools for a region severely impacted by both wildfires and COVID-19. MESO staff will provide one-to-one culturally specific coaching, credit-building support, technical assistance, and access to a 5:1 matched Individual development account (IDA).

  • BINW: Financial literacy and loan readiness. BINW provides coaching, education and access to capital for community small businesses, with an emphasis on working with traditionally underserved populations —low/moderate income, women, BIPOC, veterans, immigrants and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. Recognizing the historic barriers to accessing capital and financial expertise many diverse entrepreneurs face, Umpqua is funding the launch of BINW's new, multi-lingual Loan Readiness Center to provide customized technical assistance that moves entrepreneurs from "loan-ready" to "loan-successful." BINW will also introduce new, culturally appropriate loan products that expand access to capital for under-resourced borrowers.

Umpqua's Small Business Empowerment Program is part of a growing movement toward regenerative finance — a holistic approach to investment that aim to use targeted capital distribution as a tool to create healthy and equitable social and environmental systems. As the Black Lives Matter movement has continued to bring systemic societal inequities into sharp focus, more and more companies and financial institutions have committed to shifting resources to help level the financial playing field for historically disadvantaged and underrepresented communities of color. Awareness grows and the work continues, but things remain far from level.

The Small Business Empowerment Program is just the latest Umpqua initiative to advance entrepreneurship and business ownership among minorities and women. Last month, the bank also launched a private-public partnership with the State of Washington to provide $15.5 million for the newly formed Small Business Flex Fund — which offers low-cost loans and support through CDFIs for minority-owned businesses. And for its focus on equitable lending through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the US Small Business Administration recently recognized Umpqua in its Equity Spotlight series for providing 30 percent of its 2021 PPP loans to women-owned businesses — double the national average.