Northern Initiatives shares success stories


Northern Initiatives has helped 10 Kent County businesses receive forgivable loans that they would not otherwise have been able to obtain during the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and although the P3 has ended, the lender based in Michigan has not finished helping underfunded small businesses.

Northern Initiatives (NI), a Marquette-based community development finance institution (CDFI), helped 87 small businesses in 36 Michigan counties obtain P3 loans in the first five months of 2021, of which 10 were from County of Michigan. Kent. Businesses ranged from restaurants and daycares to leisure providers, clothing retailers and food trucks. Most of them were not existing NI credit customers.

The PPP loan program has created a lifeline for many during this pandemic, but it has also frustrated microenterprises, sole proprietorships and farms – especially those owned by women, veterans and people of color, who do not had no existing relationships with banks and needed smaller loans.

The way the PPP program worked, lending institutions had the option of using their own capital to provide loans to qualifying businesses, and if businesses qualified for loan forgiveness using the funds as required, the federal government would then reimburse the lender. for the capital he was using. Lenders also received loan fees and earned interest on loans that were not deemed to be forgiven.

Elissa Sangalli

NI President Elissa Sangalli said minority business owners, who are often excluded from traditional lending opportunities, do not have relationships with the banks or credit unions that distribute most PPP loans, and even when they did, most financial institutions were unwilling to issue smaller loan amounts, which provided a lower return on investment under the original PPP program pricing structure.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the largest eligible companies got their PPP money first, while companies trying to get loans under $ 50,000 had to wait weeks or months. Even before the pandemic, low-income communities had less access to financial products. During the pandemic, most PPP loans did not reach a large portion of businesses in the lowest income communities.

NI wanted to correct this disparity and reached out to colleagues, friends and partners to find companies left behind. He has received referrals from over two dozen sources, including the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Rende Progress Capital, and Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), with which NI has existing partnerships, and to a group of small banks across the state that serve farmers, individual owners and independent service providers.

Here are some of the stories of small business owners in West Michigan who received P3 loans:

Shannon cohen Courtesy of Shannon Cohen

Shannon Cohen, founder of Shannon Cohen Inc., who is an inspiring speaker and entrepreneur based in Grand Rapids, said she had spent months unsuccessfully asking for pandemic relief funds. She eventually decided that the energy was better directed towards growing her business.

“I just stopped applying. I was jaded. I saw the data that showed the inequalities in lending, ”she said.

But then NI helped her get a PPP loan.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Cohen said. “It restored my faith.”

Jeff Smith owns the South Shore Resort on Twin Lake, south of Muskegon. He and his daughter, Chloe, ran the family business and had to use Smith’s retirement funds to keep it going through the dismal summer of 2020. They were asking for all the loans and grants they could find, but were told to ‘try elsewhere or got no response at all. NI reached out and helped Smith get a P3 loan. He remembers receiving the phone alert when the money was deposited – and the massive relief he felt.

“When you see your kids putting their hearts and souls into something, without a paycheck, doing it for their father, well, it’s hard,” Smith said.

Paola Mendivil said running a restaurant is like raising a baby: “You have to take care of it, take care of it,” she said. She co-owns El Granjero Mexican Grill on the west side of Grand Rapids with her mother, Mercedes Lopez Duran. There have been times over the past year – with stops, protocols, ability changes and more – that Mendivil felt like throwing in the towel, but El Granjero is his baby.

She found out about NI and its PPP efforts through the Hispanic Chamber, and El Granjero qualified for the largest loan amount of any NI PPP loan recipient in Michigan.

Rick Beisiegel is the owner and sole employee of Vital Signs and Graphics, a Newaygo-based company he founded in 1982.

“I wanted to own my own business so that I could be a father,” he said.

When the Newaygo County River Country Chamber of Commerce published an article about NI’s willingness to help small business owners navigate the P3 journey, Beisiegel called.

“They were really knowledgeable and accessible,” he said. “When I called I got a person and I didn’t have to press buttons and numbers to connect to someone. “

Quazaa Mayberry

Quazaa Mayberry’s business model is a bit unusual, but it works, he said. Mayberry is a traveling merchant in Grand Rapids who sells in pop-up shops and flea markets. Her shop, Quazaam’s, sells clothes, masks, bags and more. The pandemic has hit him hard “financially, emotionally and mentally,” he said. He hasn’t had a chance to ask for federal relief, mainly because he’s “a one-man show.” But then a referral from Rende Progress Capital, a minority-run CDFI in Grand Rapids that NI has worked with regularly, put him in touch with Sangalli.

Sangalli said NI’s ability to help those who didn’t think they could qualify for help was truly gratifying.

“We have given 87 PPP loans, and in my mind that translates to at least 87 families receiving support,” she said.

Although the PPP program has ended, Sangalli said it was important for people to know that NI will continue its mission of providing loans to entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses to cover everything from working capital to equipment to be part of the healthy food ecosystem. NI currently does not have a minimum loan amount, but its loan amounts tend to be between $ 50,000 and $ 500,000.

“Northern Initiatives gives more small business loans than any other CDFI in the state, and we were truly honored to be able to support so many small businesses (through PPP),” she said.


Since the start of 2021, Initiatives Nord has:

  • Helped 87 small businesses get PPP loans
  • Loan of $ 1,023,260 in PPP funds, with an average loan amount of $ 11,000
  • Granted 52% of its PPP loans to various borrowers
  • Loans in 36 Michigan counties

Source: Nordic Initiatives

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