A $100,000 gift from Intrust Bank will allow the city of Wichita to expand its microloan program for underprivileged entrepreneurs into a citywide initiative in 2022.
The program was rolled out in May with a narrow focus on women- and minority-owned small businesses in City Council District 1. But officials say it generated the most interest from otherwise qualified business owners who didn’t live in the district.
“When we went out to the public for interest, we had many more applications that fell outside of District 1 boundaries, and so they were ineligible,” Assistant City Manager Scot Rigby said at a Thursday press conference.
The PROPEL program, which stands for Providing Resources & Opportunities for Proprietors, Entrepreneurs & Lenders, promises to lend business owners up to $20,000 at 3% interest. Loans must be repaid within three years.
The PROPEL revolving fund began as an $88,000 pool of money from District 1’s cut of the 2016 Hyatt Regency Wichita sale, when each district was awarded $1 million.
Intrust President Jay Smith said the bank sees its $100,000 donation as an investment in the ecosystem of Wichita’s business community.
“When you think about it, the health and success of our community really depends a lot on those entrepreneurs and small businesses and helping foster growth,” Smith said.
“We look forward to some great success stories coming out of the program in 2022.”
Applications for the expanded PROPEL program will be accepted from Jan. 18 to March 18.
To qualify, applicants must be in business for at least two years and be able to demonstrate that their company has “majority ownership by a socially- and economically-disadvantaged person or persons.”
Rigby said the city will advertise applications in Spanish and Vietnamese in addition to English.
Mayor Brandon Whipple said the revolving loan program will provide much-needed capital to business owners who might otherwise struggle to secure a low-interest loan.
“It really kind of fills in that gap where a lot of small businesses, if you are looking for a loan to hold you over that is less than $20,000, it’s tougher to get that from a bank,” Whipple said. “Usually, if folks are getting that money, it’s a higher interest rate.”
So far, the city has only issued one microloan to Reel Propped Selfie Museum, an interactive museum that opened in September. Rigby said the owners have already started paying their loan back.
“As we receive and build up that interest that’s gained from the loan, that will be put back into the revolving fund so we can go put it back into the community,” he said.