CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville has launched a new loan program to help business owners who traditionally can't get a loan.

The Business Equity Fund program is geared towards business owners that are socially disadvantaged, and have been discriminated against.

The program allows businesses to take out loans between $5,000 and $25,000, with an interest rate up to three-percent.

“It's really exciting to see people get this opportunity,” said Hollie Lee, chief of Workforce Development Strategies. “It's essentially we're loaning people money and they're paying it back with hardly any additional cost associated with that loan.”

To qualify, the business must have been in the city at least six months and must use the money to grow their business.

03/26/2019: Release from Charlottesville:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - Earlier this month, the city of Charlottesville launched the Business Equity Fund (BEF). An initiative of City Councilor Wes Bellamy, the BEF is a loan program for existing city businesses that are owned by individuals who are considered socially disadvantaged (i.e., those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as members of a group).

The BEF loan program is an offering of the city’s newly revamped Minority Business Program and is an effort to provide access to capital for minority-owned businesses; something that has traditionally been a barrier to entrepreneurship for this population. The program, which is administered in partnership with the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC), lowers eligibility criteria typically experienced in traditional banking scenarios and offers a subsidized interest rate that is well below the market rate (up to 3%).

To date, two businesses have already taken advantage of this opportunity. According to Keith Groomes of Park Pies, LLC, “The Business Equity Fund relieved a lot of the pressure I was feeling from taking over a company. I am able to plan better for upcoming events and festivals while removing debt. The money has acted as a cushion.” Lesly Goudet of LG’s Elixir, a health and wellness tonic sold at the Charlottesville City Market, has also taken advantage of the low interest loan. Goudet states, “The Business Equity Fund has been a dream come true! I am in a place now where I can grow my business. The timing was perfect! I have the money to buy supplies and industrial machinery. With this money, I am able to keep up with the demands of the community – a magical improvement! It was well worth it!”

Interested businesses should schedule an initial meeting with the City of Charlottesville Office of Economic Development to determine need and if minimum eligibility criteria can be met. After this, businesses will be referred directly to CIC to provide required documents and complete a loan application. For more information, please visit Or, contact or 434-970-3117.