Grameen America, the leading microfinance nonprofit organization providing business capital to low-income minority women in the United States, has announced plans to accelerate its commitment to racial equity through its new Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs initiative.
The dedicated program, which will offer loan capital, financial training, asset and credit building tools to Black women entrepreneurs, aims to expand to $1.3 billion in loans to more than 80,000 Black women entrepreneurs by 2030, said a Press release.
Grameen America helps increase women's financial mobility through its proven approach of engaging with and lending directly to women entrepreneurs. The organization, which has invested over $1.9 billion in more than 136,000 low-income women entrepreneurs since opening in January 2008, is positioned to reach more than half a million women by 2030.
Grameen America's social capital model, with 24 branches in 17 U.S. cities, is unmatched in terms of its national scale, financial sustainability and its unmediated relationship with its members.
Grameen America estimates that, due to a lack of access to affordable credit and capital, there are at least 1.4 million self-employed Black women who could benefit from the organization's capital and resources to enhance their financial independence. Research indicates that Black women entrepreneurs suffer from a systematic lack of access to affordable credit and capital, a longstanding problem Grameen America intends to address through its new initiative.
With catalytic funding support from The Studio @ Blue Meridian, Grameen America will launch an innovative network of new branches over the next three years to provide Black women entrepreneurs with loan capital and financial training, aiming to demonstrate impact with improvement in members' business income, credit scores, personal savings and material hardship measures. Grameen America will launch the new network beginning in Memphis, Tennessee in 2021, with further expansion to follow in communities where minority women entrepreneurs remain underserved. In addition, current operations in Harlem, NY and Newark, NJ will also launch the initiative, expanding to wider NYC and greater Newark areas, developing and implementing new programmatic solutions to reach Black women entrepreneurs nationwide at scale. As the program expands, Grameen America's goal is to directly lend $1.3 billion to more than 80,000 Black entrepreneurs by 2030 through reinvestment and redeployment of capital.
"The launch of the Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs initiative reflects our shared commitment to ensuring racial and financial equity for Black entrepreneurial women throughout the United States," said Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America. "Through this new program, which will leverage our unique group lending model and infrastructure built over 13 years, we hope to meaningfully address systemic inequities faced by Black businesswomen, which will play a transformative role in enhancing the pipeline of emerging entrepreneurs in our country."
The Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs Division of Grameen America will be led by Alethia Mendez. Ms. Mendez joined Grameen America in 2008 as one of the organization's first employees, serving as the inaugural Center Manager for Grameen America's Jackson Heights branch. She has since held several executive leadership positions at Grameen America, and is a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
"Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs is a solution to the formal banking system which can uphold racial inequality by systemically denying Black women the same access and opportunity as other entrepreneurs in the United States," said Alethia Mendez, Division President for Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs at Grameen America. "Our team is poised to support the ingenuity and grit of Black women entrepreneurs across the country to grow their businesses and energize their communities."
"This initiative must not wait. It is imperative that we help shape the future for Black women entrepreneurs in the United States," said Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate, Co-Chair of Grameen America and Grameen Bank Founder. "I have no doubt we will create a successful microfinance program that gives the same opportunity to Black Americans to live free of poverty, as we have with Grameen borrowers all over the world."