Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and Startup Tucson hosted a mixer on Thursday, May 3 to celebrate the official proclamation of BIPOC Entrepreneurs Day.

Earlier in the week, the City of Tucson and the Pima County Supervisors designated May 1 as a day to recognize the business accomplishments of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

In 2020, following the George Floyd unrest, CIC started the BIPOC Loan Fund to help small businesses run by people of color.

This came in response to Executive Director Danny Knee realizing that the community faced disadvantages in terms of funding and capital.

According to a study from Stanford University, the average white-owned business has over $106,000 in startup capital, while Black-owned businesses have an average of just over $35,000.

“The system that we have for capital access doesn’t work,” Knee sayid. “The issue is, if you have assets, if you have wealth, you can make more wealth. But how do we help the people who don’t have wealth?”

The answer was the BIPOC Loan Fund, which provides zero-interest loans to three BIPOC-run businesses per month. Small businesses can receive loans up to $10,000.

The loan’s committee chooses recipients based on a business’ story and makes it easy to apply.

Were investing in BIPOC entrepreneurs because they contribute so much to our community,” Knee said. “Theyre the fastest-growing population of entrepreneurs and we want to make sure that they have the resources that they may have previously not had access to.

One of these entrepreneurs includes Cortnie Smith, who has run her catering business, Cookin’ Wit Cort, since 2020.

When first starting out, Smith wasn’t sure how to fund her business, being reluctant to seek out help from banks.

“I was so intimidated about it,” Smith said. “I don’t want to sign my life away.”

She found a solution with CIC’s BIPOC Loan Fund.

“Zero percent interest and the fact that when you pay it back, it goes back into the community,” she noted. “That’s something that most banks would never offer.”

Keneshia Raymond, Director of the BIPOC Loan Fund, said that the proclamation of BIPOC Entrepreneurs Day shows that the community is being recognized.

“We are teaching our BIPOC people that they are seen, they are heard,” Raymond said. “We understand what they need because we have been in that situation.”

Next year, CIC looks to expand the BIPOC Loan Fund to Phoenix and Maricopa County. They also hope to raise $3 million to help BIPOC entrepreneurs across Southern Arizona.

To apply for the BIPOC Loan, visit the Community Investment Corporation website.