The JP UP date: JP Awarded $1.25MM from CDFI Fund

justine devThe JP UP date

JP Receives $1.25MM CDFI Fund Award to Increase Lending to African-American and LMI Small Businesses in St. Louis

Justine PETERSEN is the proud recipient of a $1.25MM grant from the CDFI Fund to ramp up lending to African-American and low-to-moderate income (LMI) small businesses located in the City of St. Louis. Justine PETERSEN solely owns and operates Great Rivers Community Capital, a community development financial institution (CDFI) which seeks to deploy dollars to historically under-resourced individuals, small businesses and communities through a suite of asset-building loan products and services. Justine PETERSEN/Great Rivers Community Capital has received five grants from the CDFI Fund to date.

Lindell Bank and JP Discuss Additional Capital Investments and Opportunities

Left to right: Robert Boyle of Justine PETERSEN, Leon Hall of Lindell Bank and Sheri Flanigan-Vazquez of Justine PETERSEN

Robert Boyle, Chief Executive Officer, and Sheri Flanigan-Vazquez, Chief Operations Officer of Justine PETERSEN, recently met with Leon Hall, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lindell Bank, to discuss further partnership opportunities. Lindell Bank is exploring a third investment with JP that would expand the availability of deployable capital to local small businesses.

JP Participates in Urban League’s “Felony Friendly” Ex-Offender Boot Camp

Franchot Cunningham of Justine PETERSEN counsels participant

Over 100 individuals attended a three-day “Rapid Hiring Explosion” as part of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ “Ex-offender Boot Camp.” Participants learned about available positions in the local workforce, as well apprenticeships and resources for starting their own business. Franchot Cunningham of JP met with attendees and discussed the importance of personal credit scores as it relates to the hiring process, as well as provided information about JP’s “Aspire” program, which offers returning citizens a multi-week entrepreneurship curriculum combined with the opportunity to borrow start-up capital.

The Gallant Return of “Just Saying…”

The following blog was authored by Tamra Thetford, Chief Program Officer at Justine PETERSEN.

One upside to waiting on my delayed flight back to St. Louis is that I have time to share the invigorating visit I had to the latest roll out of Justine PETERSEN’s Aspire Entrepreneurship Program for Returning Citizens with our partner ProsperUs Detroit. I was able to hear from participants in ProsperUs Detroit’s inaugural Aspire class and observe just how dynamic and gregarious the group is!

Business Training + Financial Counseling + Access to Loans + Parent Support = Aspire

If you were being asked to identify which part of this equation doesn’t seem to fit, you might be inclined to pick “parent support” and like me, you would be WRONG!

One participant explained, “If I was offered a choice between a program like this with parenting (support) and one without I would definitely choose this one….I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone; get my passion off the ground and get help as a first time mom at 40 years old.”

As all Aspire participants have a child under 9, kids as an inspiration is a familiar refrain heard in classes not only in Detroit but in St. Louis and Chicago.

“I was inspired to leave them something when I’m not around anymore.”

“My kids are watching, I’m trying to be a positive leader. They love to come to class with me!”

And as several participants noted, opening up after coming home from prison isn’t easy. One participant put it starkly, “That’s the impact of being around all men while I was away for 11 years. You had to be hard… but now there is a crack in the opening of awareness to other ways.” Having open conversations about challenges participants face with parenting or in their business doesn’t just happen.

“They Took Us as We Came”

When asked about the best part of the program, a participant offered “they’re not judgmental, they are patient.” As Chanell Scott Contreras, Director of ProsperUs Detroit at Southwest Solutions explains, “I think this follows on the culture of ProsperUs, a culture of empowerment, of not setting ourselves aside as experts, but as resource to help everyone learn from each other.”

The success of their approach is evident in the room as a mix of growing businesses, start-ups in the idea stage, and others looking to formalize a side hustle support each other with a blend of advice, support and collaboration.

This support takes the form of business advice from an experienced business owner about pricing to a GoFundMe page set up by multiple participants to support a participant who had her business inventory stolen as she was just getting her business going.

Being Able to Ask for Help is a Sign of Strength

Market research was the business fundamental being explored during that night’s class and experienced facilitator Lawrence Jackson expertly led the group in an spirited exploration of primary and secondary types of market research; not just how to get the information but how to use it in your business. But the discussions of the night, from parenting to entrepreneurship, came back to the unofficial theme—being able to ask for help as a sign of strength. Whether participants were discussing how they coped with a baby that wouldn’t stop crying (call your sister for advice) or how to handle upset customers when you tend to be a hot head (enlist your most charming employee to be the customer relations manager) participants recognized that being able to ask for help was a sign of strength. Entrepreneurship skills are Life Skills.