Northeast PA’s Circle of Aunts and Uncles Fund
A new revolving micro-loan program at the Wayne County Community Foundation
Photo credit: Kate Houstoun
Our Circle of Aunts and Uncles is a philanthropic community project to provide low-interest loans and social capital to under-resourced entrepreneurs who are leading new or growing local businesses, in order to co-create a more equitable, compassionate, sustainable, and vibrant local economy within or impacting Wayne County Pennsylvania. Northeast PA’s Circles of Aunts and Uncles is modeled after the Circles of Aunts and Uncles based in Philadelphia and founded by Judy Wicks, entrepreneur and activist.
We envision a prosperous regional economy that supplies basic needs to the local population, works in harmony with our natural ecosystem, supports vibrant, joyful, and inclusive community life and has broad-based business ownership reflecting the demographics of our population.
We believe that a strong local economy, with an array of unique small businesses, promotes equity and equality. It is a studied and known fact that dollars cycle more times throughout a community when spent in a small locally owned business. Small business and local entrepreneurship provide opportunity to some of the underserved and undercapitalized sections of our society—such as immigrants, returning citizens of all ages, and community members without formal higher education.
How does the program work?
1. Members of our Circle of Aunts and Uncles (CoAU) donate money to the Wayne County Community Foundation (WCCF) designated for this fund and/or their time to support this program.
2. Existing or new local business owners/entrepreneurs interested in a micro-loan fill out this initial interest form. Loans must be for a specific purpose such as purchase of equipment, tools, locally supplied goods/seed/feed/ingredients, or brick and mortar upgrades; not for general operating expenses, payroll, marketing activities or refinancing existing debt.
3. Members will reach out to the applicant and determine if the entrepreneur is eligible to present at a CoAU gathering (typically twice per year). Selected applicants will network with the “aunts” and “uncles” and make a short presentation about themselves and their businesses.
4. The Aunts and Uncles will recommend making a loan to one or more of the presenters and designate appropriate terms to WCCF. After required diligence, the WCCF will issue the loan, with a local bank providing billing/servicing. The loan amount could be up to $12,000 (typically $5000) with a length of 3 years or less and at rates from 2% to 4%. Terms will be specific to each borrower, and may include delayed principal repayment (balloon payments, e.g. after harvest), penalties for late payments, etc., but never a penalty for early payment.
5. Additionally, a sub-circle of Aunts and Uncles with helpful background or insight into an entrepreneur’s situation will provide social capital -- enthusiastically spreading the word about the business to friends and colleagues; become customers themselves; provide marketing, management & sales advice; and/or make connections to potential buyers, reporters, agents, seasoned colleagues in the same industry, local suppliers, storage opportunities, and/or other resources.
How can I participate?
· Interested in being an Aunt or Uncle? Fill out the Membership form here.
· Interested in applying for a loan from the CoAU Fund? Read the overview for entrepreneurs then fill out this initial application. After a review for eligibility, you will be asked to comeplete the full application form.