We work together to provide (targeted) support to small businesses in the Greater Kalamazoo area.
Alliances among resources assures that support is made available to local small businesses so they become major employers in Greater Kalamazoo Organizational structure: Informal, no nonprofit status necessary currently. By meeting regularly we keep all our members/partners current and up-do-date while trying to break through some of the challenges that our small businesses encounter.
The Greater Kalamazoo Business Resource Network (GKBRN) is an informal consortium started in January 2017 to address the ecosystem gaps in Kalamazoo for micro and small businesses. The mission of the GKBRN is: “Helping Business connect to the resources needed to plan, start and thrive in Kalamazoo.”
There currently are more than 16 local nonprofit organizations and public institutions participating in the GKBRN group with the anchor partners being: Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Western Michigan University Innovation Center, SCORE, Can Do Kitchen, Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), City of Kalamazoo Planning and Economic Development, Southwest Michigan First Chamber and the WMed Innovation Center.
Activities and Accomplishments
- Over the past two years, Greater Kalamazoo Business Resource Network (GKBR), has been working on several initiatives to create opportunities for upward economic mobility for our residents. These initiatives assist in strengthening our pipeline of startup companies by empowering our entrepreneurs.
- One of the major hurdles for startups is access to capital. In May 2018 the Kalamazoo Capital Consortium was initiated based on a best practice from the City of Philadelphia. The goal was to create a point of access for those struggling to find funding that created a one-stop pre-application for lenders. We are calling it a lending triage comparing it to an emergency room where multiple lenders would be able to view a business’s request for lending and create solutions for entrepreneurs rather than barriers.
- Our goal was to expand strong startup community and building the reputation of being small business friendly and becoming a place where startups know they are supported. An initial cohort of 17 financial institutions, including an array of local banks, credit unions, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and the City of Kalamazoo, joined the Capital Consortium.
- After 18 months, the cohort includes 15 active financial institutions. To date, the Capital Consortium has accepted and reviewed 42 applications, 11 have been funded and 7 still in conversation with a funding institute.
An additional goal of the Capital Consortium was to identify gaps in the funding ecosystem. The gaps identified through the year are lack of capital for start-up organizations, especially those with no down payment, collateral or low credit SCORE. Our CDFI’s and the City have stepped in to fill this gap but more needs to be done.
The next year will be spent identifying strategies to mitigate barriers and expand the tools needed to fill gaps in the funding ecosystem.