October is Diversity Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize and appreciate diversity in our social and business communities. Diverse small businesses are a growing segment of the economy and represent a variety of backgrounds, nationalities, races, religions, ethnicities, physical abilities, sexual orientations, genders, countries of origin, languages, or other cultural characteristics. 

FSC First recognizes the positive impact diversity has on the business community and wholeheartedly supports diverse businesses throughout Maryland. FSC First’s mission is to provide financial programs and funding for small business creation and expansion, with a variety of opportunities for diverse small businesses. Diverse small businesses often face overwhelming challenges, including structural racism, discrimination, economic barriers, limited access to business networks, and limited opportunity for skill development. They may struggle developing relationships with banking institutions, limiting their financial options. 

FSC First sees those challenges and knows that investing in diverse small businesses yields enormous rewards for business owners, the workforce, and the community. For this reason, FSC First creates innovative funding opportunities with small, diverse businesses in mind. Read on to see if one of these funding programs is right for your small business. 

VLT Small Business Flex Fund

Offering creative financial solutions is just one of FSC First’s strengths as a lender. Diverse small businesses can apply for the VLT Small Business Flex Fund to meet their working capital needs without requiring a government guarantee or the funding of loan loss reserves. This fund uses proceeds from video lottery terminals to assist small, minority, and women-owned businesses located in targeted areas surrounding six Maryland casinos. 

FSC First is part of a team of eight experienced Fund Managers. The allocations may be used for business acquisition and expansion, owner-occupied commercial real estate, leasehold improvements, purchase of equipment, start-up costs, working capital, professional services, and refinancing existing debt under certain circumstances. Diverse small businesses can bet on success with the help of the VLT Small Business Flex Fund. 

Strive for 35 Loan Fund

Diverse small businesses interested in working in the natural gas industry can get a leg up with the Strive for 35 Loan Fund from FSC First, the fund manager for this Washington Gas loan program. The fund assists minority-owned, women-owned, and service-disabled veterans who may have difficulty obtaining capital through traditional sources. Applicants must want to serve the natural gas industry via underground pipe and fitting, paving, engineering, hauling and removal, general construction, catering, staffing, employment agencies, and other businesses whose services are needed by natural gas utilities.

The Strive for 35 Loan Fund provides businesses with loan amounts from $10,000-$50,000, with terms of up to 5 years (depending upon fund availability) and interest rates of up to 7%. Washington Gas and FSC First are eager to offer this solution for what is often considered a barrier, securing working capital for diverse suppliers. 

Purple Line Business Assistance Grant 

Infrastructure development promises long-term solutions while often causing short-term disruptions. Construction of the new Purple Line transit system in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties is one such development project affecting many businesses along the 16-mile construction route. The design and construction of the Purple Line is a 10-year project from 2016 – 2026. For diverse small businesses, that period of disruption can be financially devastating.

FSC First offers qualifying small businesses assistance through the Purple Line Business Assistance Grant. Eligible small businesses can receive up to $5,000 in grant support. Conditions for the funding are: the business is adjacent to the construction project, the business is in good standing with the State of Maryland, the business is open and operating (start-ups are not eligible), and the business is impacted by Purple Line Construction, restrictions, or COVID-19 closures. 

Grant funds can be used for working capital to sustain operations (i.e., rent, utilities, insurance, inventory), to rehire or retain employees, and for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) (i.e., masks, gloves, etc.). Diverse small businesses are encouraged to apply for the Purple Line Business Assistance Grant to get the support they need.

Our communities thrive on so many levels when diverse small businesses succeed. Celebrate Diversity Awareness Month with FSC First, and explore what we have to offer your business!



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