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Native Women Lead’s Character Based Lending Program for Entrepreneurs

This lending program seeks to showcase the power of Indigenous women businesses and create a non-harmful way to build wealth and access to change the field and launch more funds led by Indigenous people.

Authors: Sandhya Nakhasi, Co-CEO, Ryan Glasgo, Chief Operations Officer

This post was originally published by Community Credit Lab, which is now part of Common Future.

“The interventions that we are designing today are not going to solve inequality immediately – but this testing, iterating, and evolving will lead us toward something different in the future by serving as an example of what is possible.” – Vanessa Roanhorse, Native Women Lead

Native Women Lead is testing a new model that relies on relationships, as well as community accountability and support to ensure that Indigenous Women-run businesses are not only investable, but also inherently focused on solving problems in their communities. In this partnership, NWL showcases what trust and relationships can do to move capital to those most harmed.

Background Context

At Community Credit Lab, we believe that it’s possible to shift the financial system to prioritize humanity. At its core, this requires shifting money and shifting power to businesses and ecosystems that have, and continue to be, financially under-resourced. It also requires these same businesses and individuals to design and direct how capital is allocated within their communities – from the type of capital, to the evaluation criteria and terms.

To demonstrate what’s possible, Community Credit Lab and Common Future partnered with three entrepreneurship support organizations led and primarily focused on supporting entrepreneurs of color to launch three character-based lending programs. The lending programs will distribute capital based on relationship and trust to support entrepreneurs with affordable and flexible capital to help grow their businesses.

Each program was designed by their respective Lending Partner (including Native Women Lead) to address the unique challenges of the businesses they support. Community Credit Lab provided program design support to each Lending Partner and will be providing loan management services needed to run and evaluate each of their lending programs.

Based on the programs designed, Common Future worked to source funders and impact-first investors in their network that would provide patient and affordable capital to resource the lending programs via a pooled vehicle (see the structure below). Each Lending Partner is testing what’s possible if we center the people that face challenges to accessing affordable credit in the design of these programs.

Native Women Lead

Lending program to support indigenous women-led businesses in New Mexico & Arizona

Our Lending Partner, Native Women Lead (NWL) is an indigenous-led collective with a mission to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native Women in business. They do this by co-creating with and convening with their community to build coalition while honoring their culture, creativity, and connections. Listening and responding to the challenges their community face is deeply embedded in their values as an organization.

NWL is piloting an expansion of its existing community lending program to support indigenous women-led businesses in New Mexico and Arizona with access to affordable early stage capital and support services. Based on their experience working closely with businesses, co-founders, Vanessa Roanhorse and Jaime Gloshay, identified what type of capital would be meaningful for the businesses in their network, how businesses should be evaluated as being ready to take on this level of capital and how loan terms can be designed to support businesses, rather than burden them. Loans provided through this program will be evaluated collectively by their community of partners and will reach entrepreneurs looking for capital between $10K-$50K with patient terms of up to 5-years (total current loan pool is $250,000 for this lending program).


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