Small Business Funding: Omaha 100 Expands into Business Lending

Omaha 100 was recently awarded $10.5 million from the State Small Business Credit Initiative [SSBCI]. Since its beginning in 1993, Omaha 100 has focused on mortgage lending, but the SSBCI funds have been the catalyst allowing the organization to expand into the business lending space.

“Over the years we were already seeing a lot of our homeowners using their home equity to fund [businesses], so it made perfect sense for us to transition from mortgage lending to including business lending and continue to help families build wealth outside of just home ownership,” said Malinda Williams, president and CEO of Omaha 100, Inc.

SSBCI is a federal program that provides funding to be distributed through the state Department of Economic Development. Omaha 100 was selected as one of three organizations to offer business loans that provide capital to support the more disadvantaged borrowers who have not been able to access capital to grow their businesses.

“Through the initiative, Omaha 100 was awarded $10.5 million, which requires a one-to-one match, so we will have to identify and raise an additional $10.5 million,” Williams said. “So, over the next three years our goal is to distribute $21 million to those SSBCI businesses in the community and Nebraska.”

The organization requires certain documents from applicants, similar to the way a bank would require for a loan. The difference is that as a community investment institution, Omaha 100 can take on more risky investments and underestimated entrepreneurs who may not meet the lending guidelines of a traditional bank.

“If they’re not meeting guidelines, we can also take the extra step of connecting them with resources,” Williams said. “For instance, if they need help writing a business plan, we can connect them with that resource. They can then come back, and we can continue to underwrite them.”

Omaha 100 will offer loans up to $250,000 with flexible terms and low interest compared to the market on business loans. The organization also offers technical assistance—which it defines as any type of financial services, account services, business strategy and legal services—and other resources, such as help writing business plans.

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Boosting Economic Growth

Williams expects the new funding to boost community and economic growth, create quality jobs and attract more business to the area.

“We’re excited to bring other tools and pathways to wealth to the community,” she said. “With those four areas of work being—real estate development, mortgage lending, business lending and debt consolidation—we hope to be a one-stop shop when it comes to alternative capital for the community.”

In 1993, a couple of nonprofit developers and other members of the community saw a need for access to capital and other tools and resources that would support home ownership. They also wanted to have a greater impact on home ownership in the area, so they established Omaha 100.

The organization operated independently until about the year 2000 when the board saw an opportunity to merge with Family Housing Advisory Service [FHAS].

“On January 1 of this year, we once again became an independent organization, separating from FHAS so we could expand access to capital in other areas like business lending and also do some real estate development. The board thought it was an excellent opportunity to separate from our parent organization so we could evolve and expand our services.”