SOAR fund lifts up small businesses hit by pandemic

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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By Roz Brown

Texas News Service


HOUSTON, Texas — Minority-owned businesses across the South are benefitting from a program designed to help them get back on their feet post-pandemic.
The Southern Opportunity and Resilience (SOAR) Fund, is assisting businesses and nonprofits rebuild.
Chandon Gordon owns Houston’s GFN Hippy, a small business that coordinates housing for traveling nurses. When the need for housing exploded at the start of the pandemic, Gordon was able to furnish and lease housing to traveling nurses with a low-interest Resilience Fund loan after being denied credit from traditional sources.
“And they were really able to look inside our organization and say, ‘You do deserve this, you do need this, this will help you, and we want to see your business thrive,'” Gordon recounted.
Gordon explained GFN Hippy also used the loan to cover payroll and purchase laptops.
As of mid-November, $11 million had been distributed from the Resilience Fund in 14 states to nearly 250 small businesses with owners who self-identify as a woman or a person of color.
Caroline Yarbrough, strategy officer at Calvert Impact Capital, the SOAR fund arranger, said most of the businesses receiving help are at risk of being left behind.
“Almost 90% of SOAR fund loans to date have been to businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees,” Yarbrough pointed out. “Helping them retool, figure out how to rebuild and operate in the new reality.”
As a minority, LGBTQ business owner, Gordon said it was important to provide certified and registered traveling nurses with a safe place to stay.
“They’re really looking for a safe, comfortable place,” Gordon emphasized. “We focus on making sure that our units are no further than about 15 minutes away from the Texas Medical Center, and they can really get to know the city of Houston.”
Supported small businesses have included restaurants, early-childhood centers, health service providers, local produce farms, construction contractors and retail stores.