Businesses in the south have been historically underfunded and underbanked by almost every metric, so it was unsurprising they received a disproportionately low percentage of federal support in the wake of the pandemic. In response, a cross-sector coalition of philanthropic, private and corporate investors have partnered with local small business community lenders to launch the Southern Opportunity And Resilience (SOAR) Fund. With more than $50mm in initial commitments, the fund will provide low-interest loans and free business support to the smallest of small businesses across the south – most with fewer than 10 employees. In this discussion, several partners in the fund’s launch discuss the role of community lenders and investors in supporting traditionally underinvested communities and their learnings from the launch of this first-of-its-kind fund.
Beth Bafford, VP, Syndications & Strategy at Calvert Impact Capital
Paul Quintero, President & CEO at Ascendus
James Bason, President & CEO at TruFund Financial Services
Sarah Beth Gehl, Research Director at The Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP)