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Britney Hoskins, who is known by her supporters as the celebrity event designer, was recently able to secure a $200,000 loan for her business and a $25,000 line of credit.
She is participating in a new program that provides Black business owners in metro Detroit access to capital. Called Capital Connect, the program is run by the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA), a nonprofit that aims to assist in closing the racial wealth gap.
Receiving the loan served as a confirmation for Hoskins that she is doing exactly what she’s meant to do.
“Somebody believed in me enough to say, ‘Hey, here’s some money, go do some amazing things,‘” Hoskins said. “It’s just confirmation that you’re doing the right thing. I feel like in the Black community, we don’t get that enough. We know how to make money but we often are making the money off our own backs.”
She and other Black business owners feel that stories of people investing in non-Black businesses make the funding feel unattainable. But Hoskins’ mentality has since changed because she said many doors have opened since she got involved with Capital Connect.
Capital Connect is a 12-week program held in downtown Detroit that provides step-by-step technical assistance and has a goal to connect businesses with capital. Business owners learn how to create a business plan, pitch their business, build a financial plan and tell their story. Autumn Kyles is the program manager for Capital Connect and she works under the leadership of Kai Bowman, chief operating officer for the MDBBA, and Charity Dean, president and CEO of the MDBBA.
“I want people to walk away and feel extremely confident in their business,” Bowman said. “But I think it’s also understanding it from a banking perspective and from a funder’s perspective. We would tell them the biggest question that banks want to be able to understand when they read your business plan is: ‘How are we going to get our money back?’”
Capital Connect, which started in fall 2021, is free for MDBBA members. The program is funded by the organization with the help of grants. The first cohort was supported by a grant from Huntington Bank and the second cohort, which is underway now, is supported by a grant from United Way of Southeastern Michigan.
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Some of the partners that work with the Capital Connect program include Invest Detroit, Black Leaders Detroit, Independent Bank, CDC Small Business Finance and Bank of America. However, Dean said she wants to see more partners participate financially and she wants to see policy changes.
“(Black people) in this country have been intentionally and historically disinvited from the table,” Dean said. “It’s not a question, it’s not an opinion — it is a fact. So in order for us to get some sort of equity, some semblance of equity, a drop of equity, we need more funding partners that are willing.”
Dean said that investing in Black-owned businesses is seen as a risk. “It’s always going to be at risk when you’re dealing with the victims of systemic racism. We need bold, passionate and committed financial institutions, (community development financial institutions) and funders that fully understand their role in creating this disenfranchised population, and their willingness to take a risk.”
Getting the capital
Hoskins is the owner of a full-service event planning business called The Top Pic Collective, and her immersive events are full of extravagant decor with an emphasis on vibrant colors, detailed centerpieces, flowers, lights and balloons. She started the Hazel Park-based business in 2019. The business has in-house luxury event rentals, event planners, florists, coordinators and designers. There is also a venue, which is located at 21700 John R in Hazel Park.
With the loan, line of credit and her business profits, Hoskins plans to order new inventory from China and hire more staff, including a marketing consultant and an administrator. She is also going to purchase a truck for transport needs and open a second venue in Grand Rapids. And lastly, she plans to give her entire team a raise.
“I think that I’m only able to secure these types of funds and get these types of things because I have people who rally behind me,” Hoskins said. “To me, it just wouldn’t even be right if I didn’t share it with them.”
The $200,000 loan was provided by the Small Business Administration and the $25,000 line of credit is from Kabbage, an Atlanta-based financial company that provides loans to small businesses.
Capital Connect’s impact
The Capital Connect program launched in September 2021. So far, the program has supported businesses in earning $1.85 million in capital for the first cohort, which was a class of 10 business owners, and $330,000, so far, for its second cohort, which has18 participating business owners.
The second cohort is still in progress, and two members have been funded so far. Bowman said he anticipates the second cohort will generate about $3 million in business funding.
The first cohort attracted 160 applicants for 10 spaces, and the second cohort received 85 applications for 18 spaces. The cohort participants are members of the MDBBA, so Dean expects to continue engaging with the business owners outside of the 12-week program.
Crystal Newble, managing member and owner of Leadhead Construction in Detroit, which has provided environmental abatement, demolition and construction services for residential, commercial and industrial areas since 2004, was able to secure a $500,000 line of credit with Independent Bank through her involvement in the program during its first cohort.
Although she learned a lot from every session, her biggest takeaway was learning how to tell her story through her business plan.
“Having those conversations with Autumn and the team about how to think a little further to tell your story, and make it relevant so that people understand where your company has come from and where you’re going, and being able to hold true to those commitments was huge to me,” said Newble. She also received help with financial projections.
Kyles said the storytelling that Newble learned is a major part of the program.
“I think a big piece of convincing someone that you deserve money is about you being able to confidently tell your story, and that is a huge piece that oftentimes is missed,” Kyles said. “Everyone has their thoughts around what their business is and what they do, but not a lot of people really know how to craft a story that can sell why they can grow and why they need the money to grow.”
Angelica Perez is the owner of Hell on Wheelz, which is a Detroit-based mobile bartending and catering business that started in 2021. She was able to receive a $75,000 loan from CDC Small Business Finance and a $2,500 grant from Black Leaders Detroit and left the program’s first cohort feeling more confident and technology savvy.
“It helps someone like me, a small-business owner, put pen to paper — make my vision come true on what I wanted to do and succeed with,” Perez said. As a bartender, most of her transactions are cash-only, so she said her credit wasn’t great. Perez had the prenotion that “no bank was going to ever give me funding because of my credit.” She said she is still shocked even though she has received funding.
The organization CDC Small Business Finance, based in California with an office in Detroit, works with a variety of businesses — from food to construction — in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to provide loans to businesses. Nimaj Driscoll, a loan officer with CDC Small Business Finance, said the nonprofit recently merged with Capital Impact Partners, based in Washington, D.C., another capital lender. During this merger, Driscoll was connected to Bowman.
Driscoll worked with five business owners in the first cohort and was able to provide funding through the organization for three businesses, along with one business in the underwriting process now.
This work is important to Driscoll because of the history behind the relationship of Black business owners and obtaining finances. Driscoll said, “A lot of times, banks don’t necessarily have an understanding of the type of businesses or the impact that these have in the community, let alone want to take the chance on funding them.”
In order to contribute to this effort, the organization has a program called Activate Detroit, which has a process that does not pull a credit score when a business owner applies for a loan. So when the administrative team receives a credit report, they aim to ask business owners what happened in the case of missed payments and other issues present on the report versus denying the loan outright based on paper credit.
“It’s important because there’s a need in the Detroit small business ecosystem to have more lending partners available because you can never have too many resources,” Driscoll said. “But having not only more flexible lending programs and capacity, and also having people a part of the process that really are passionate about helping the Black community — just advancing the business perspective — is important.”
To learn more about the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance’s Capital Connect program, visit the organization’s website at mdbba.com. The applications for the third cohort will open in June.