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Microlending for Evanston Reinvestment

Student group assists small businesses in Evanston with loans of up to $2,000

June 9, 2011 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

LEND, an undergraduate student group at Northwestern, has been assisting small business owners, primarily in south and west Evanston by providing loans and workshops to encourage reinvestment in the city.

To date, the year-old organization has helped businesses such as the Ebony Barber Shop on Dodge Avenue with building repairs; an Evanston paint contractor with the purchase of a new work vehicle; and a construction worker with the startup of his own sub-contracting business.

As first-time borrowers, Evanston small business owners can apply to LEND for loans of up to $2,000, which carry an interest rate of 9 percent. If the borrower makes all of his or her payments on time, half of the interest is rebated at the end. LEND also has the ability to partner with other funding sources to increase the amount of the loan size in special cases.

So far, LEND has dispersed $4,500 in loans, but its assistance extends beyond financial need. LEND may provide a business with an account manager to go over budgeting and repayment or require a business owner to attend an eight-week workshop to learn, for example, how to write a business plan.

“Also, one of the places we’ve helped our clients is by narrowing down their target market because the default response we usually get is that their target market is ‘everyone,’” said Brian Levin, co-president of LEND and a junior economics and industrial engineering major at Northwestern. “However, in a world with limited resources, you have to be more focused than that. That is one of the places we’ve been able to help our clients most.”

Funded primarily through private donations — often coming from faculty, staff, alumni and students as well as local businesses — LEND, which has 12 members, also sees raising awareness about the economic divide in Evanston as part of its mission as well as building relationships within the community.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced was getting ourselves plugged into the community,” Levin said. “We’ve overcome that challenge substantially. Since the winter quarter we’ve really dug some good roots into the community.”

For more information, visit LEND.