Opportunity Fund Teams With CUs For SMB Lending Campaign

Meriwest Credit Union

Longtime small business microlender Opportunity Fund is teaming up with a trio of credit unions (CUs) as part of the nonprofit’s bid to invest $1 billion in “marginalized businesses” across the country over the next two years.

The San Jose-based community development financial institution, or CDFI, on Tuesday (Jan. 5) unveiled a new partnership with Meriwest Credit Union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union and UMe Credit Union.

The aim of the agreement is to boost access to “transparent, affordable credit — particularly among businesses owned by women, people of color and rural entrepreneurs,” the nonprofit lender noted in a press release.

Under the agreement, the three credit unions will be able to refer members seeking small business financing to the Opportunity Fund while still retaining the overall banking and financial relationship.

The Opportunity Fund provides working capital loans ranging from $2,600 to $100,000 to underserved businesses that might otherwise run afoul of more rigid underwriting requirements and more extensive documentation rules at traditional lenders.

“Credit unions and community development financial institutions like Opportunity Fund share a purpose: to ensure ready access to affordable, responsible, financial products and services in our communities,” said Luz Urrutia, CEO of Accion Opportunity Fund, in the press release. “By working together, we can build a more inclusive financial landscape, especially for women, immigrants and entrepreneurs of color.”

The Accion Opportunity Fund, which bills itself as the first organization with a nationally focused, small business microlending strategy, was launched in March 2020 when Opportunity Fund and the Accion U.S. Network teamed up.

“Creating and protecting ownership and economic opportunity for all is at the heart of what we do at Self-Help FCU,” said Sarah Brennan, SVP of Southern California for Self-Help Federal Credit Union. “By collaborating with Opportunity Fund, we refer members for small business loans we don’t offer in-branch, ensuring that whether it’s us or our trusted partner Opportunity Fund, we can support entrepreneurs — especially entrepreneurs of color, women and immigrant business owners — in making their dreams a reality.”