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Enhanced Services, Connection to Financial Counseling for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

Staff Report

Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash

A new initiative is here to help local entrepreneurs and small business owners improve their personal finances to better position them to access capital and achieve business goals. 

Mayor Malik D. Evans and the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) have launched the Small Business Boost, a new pilot program to connect small business owners and entrepreneurs to one-on-one Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) counseling. 

“The Small Business Boost initiative demonstrates how partnerships can help build economic self-reliance, provide financial resources and enhance the quality of life for Rochester’s citizens,” said Mayor Evans.

“We are pleased to partner with this citizen-centered initiative to educate and position our entrepreneurs to increase their business capital through the Small Business Boost.” 

The new initiative is supported generously by Principal® Foundation, the CFE Fund received a $1 million grant from Principal® Foundation to pilot Small Business Boost and worked with Rochester and other Financial Empowerment Center partners to connect local entrepreneurship and small business support services with FEC financial counseling. 

Rochester FEC counselors will support business owners and entrepreneurs with their personal financial challenges that present barriers to success in building wealth through business ownership, to better position themselves to access capital and achieve their business goals. 

Counselors will receive effective training on the relationship between personal finance and business growth, navigating entrepreneurial ecosystems, and driving business outcomes through improving personal finances.

A financial counselor will be available weekly at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and remotely for all business owners and entrepreneurs in Rochester. The Rochester Financial Empowerment Center launched in February 2020. These last two years have helped over 1,700 residents, business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs reduce debt by $1.2 million and build savings by almost $1.3 million. 

The City of Rochester joins Akron, Ohio; Lansing, Mich.; Pittsburgh, Penn.; and Polk County, Iowa to connect local small businesses to this free public support service. 

“Running a small business can be a critical driver of opportunity, helping entrepreneurs build financial stability and wealth for themselves, their families and their communities – but for too many people, their finances are a barrier to making a solid start,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. 

“We’re thrilled to partner with Mayor Evans and Principal® Foundation on Small Business Boost, which will help entrepreneurs manage their finances so they can better access capital and generate wealth, and share lessons learned from this pilot so that local governments across the country can build strong and inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems.” 

While it is illegal to deny credit based on race or ethnicity, national data reveal that lower access to capital for Black-and Latinx-owned businesses makes it challenging to create and sustain business operations, as stated on the city’s press release. 

According to a 2015 report by the Empire Justice Center, 15,648 small business loans totaling $790.2 million were approved for businesses in the Rochester metro area. Of these loans, 17% were in the city of Rochester, and 9% were approved for businesses in most non-white census tracts. 

“Principal® Foundation is committed to advancing financial security. Notwithstanding the tremendous losses they suffered due to the pandemic, small businesses are still the engines for local growth and the pathway to financial security for many Americans,” said Jo Christine Miles, director, Principal Foundation and community relations.

Miles said the Foundation is thrilled to support the work of CFE Fund and its Financial Empowerment Center partners to remove barriers and expand opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch businesses that meet community needs and strengthen local communities.

“We want to keep up this momentum for current and future generations of business owners and entrepreneurs to build a more robust and equitable Rochester,” Evans said.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners interested in learning more about FEC financial counseling can visit rochesterfec.org/services. For appointment scheduling, call the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester at 585-252-7110 or visit rochesterfec.org/appointments

Additional information can also be found at www.cityofrochester.gov