Vlacich focused on the success of the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its leadership. Citing Hispanic Chamber President Oscar Mejias, he spoke about the commitment to provide access to capital for start-up Latino businesses. The micro loan program, designed by the chamber and supported by Navigant Credit Union provides 5k loans to businesses. The uniqueness of the program is that the business will get a 5k loan at 1 percent and the borrower must pay 24 months of payments to the lender and if so, the chamber will use its grant funds to pay the remainder of the loan off.
“This demonstrates two critical elements, 1.) that the businesses will keep its obligation to the bank and 2.) providing the establishment of reliable credit,” said Vlacich. The up approach to start up and business financing creates a strong foundation for the future. By paying as agreed this now makes the business eligible for a multitude of Small Business Administration loans.
The Regional Administrator cited the recent changes to the SBA’s Community Advantage Program as a second opportunity for the community. “Administrator Guzman’s vision of increasing capital to underserved communities is address in the historic changes to the Community Advantage program. By allowing mission based lenders into the program we will reach to more existing and potential small businesses with needed capital,” Vlacich said.
SBA’s 504 program was also a topic of discussion. Citing the “Window to Wall Street for Small Business” Regional Administrator Vlacich talked about the ability to procure real estate and build equity at a lower percentage rate. The 504 program allows small businesses to own real estate by only putting 10 percent down on a project.
He finished by recognizing two Latino-owned businesses that recently received awards from the agency. Javier Brown, President of O2J of Pawtucket and Juan Lantigua, President/CEO of the Family Cake in Providence. Both winners of SBA’s Minority Owned Business awards and both receiving PPP loans and other Covid relief assistance.
Javier came to the US from Venezuela over 25 years ago. He saved to start fulfillment business for the fashion, jewelry, apparels, promotional products and sporting goods in a 300 square foot office in Pawtucket and now has expanded to a successful business with over 3000 square feet of space.
Juan Lantigua path to opening “The Family Cake” is an uncommon one. Born in the Dominican Republic, Juan played professional basketball in his native country, and was named rookie of the year in 1992. In 2001, he and his wife Wendy immigrated to the US in pursuit of the American Dream.
His first focus was to learn English and to establish roots. In 2014 he became the district manager for a multi-national consumer products company and from this “The Family Cake” was born.
Regional Administrator Vlacich pledged to work closely with the community to ensure that businesses that need access to capital will be able to achieve their goals.