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Accion U.S. Network Receives $1 Million from MetLife Foundation to Increase Access to Online Capital for Small Businesses Nationwide

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The Accion U.S. Network, the largest nonprofit micro- and small business lending network in the United States, announced today that it has received $1 million from MetLife Foundation to invest in its online lending platform to help more women, minority, and immigrant entrepreneurs access capital and education online and achieve business health and growth.

The platform – us.accion.org – helps entrepreneurs start and grow a small business through financing and business education. The $1 million grant will help Accion raise the site’s visibility through content marketing and advertising; test and develop new loan products to meet the diverse capital needs of entrepreneurs; and integrate new technologies to streamline the loan application process and strengthen the overall customer experience. During its 6-month pilot phase, the platform processed more than 1,000 applications and disbursed more than $1 million to businesses across the United States.

“As nonprofit lenders, we must provide transparent capital solutions that position small businesses for stability and future growth,” said Accion U.S. Network CEO Gina Harman. “We are excited to partner with MetLife Foundation to help scale our nationwide lending efforts using technology to help the estimated 10.8 million small businesses that lack access to financing.”

A vibrant online capital marketplace has emerged as large banks have scaled back small business lending and investors have backed new ventures that leverage significant technological advances. A January 2015 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland finds that small business loans are 17 percent below the peak reached before the Great Recession. According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, 61.6 percent of small businesses received private-sector loans in 2007, while only 16.4 percent received private-sector loans in 2012. With an outstanding loan portfolio of $10 billion, this online marketplace – including direct lenders, marketplace lenders, and merchant cash advance companies — is the fastest growing sector of the economy.

Many entrepreneurs struggle to access capital from the formal financial sector because they have thin credit profiles, start businesses in industries considered risky, and request small dollar loan amounts. As more businesses shop online for resources as a result, Accion is committed to providing small business owners with an option for appropriately and transparently priced capital coupled with personalized relationships to achieve business success and growth. As the largest nonprofit microlender in the United States, Accion aims to help hard-working entrepreneurs across the country like craft artist Caroline Anthony easily access the affordable capital and education they need to create or grow healthy businesses.

Since 2003, Caroline has owned a store called ClayTime Ceramics in San Diego, California. A mother of two, she was referred to Accion by a larger bank in the area when she needed financing to support her business where she sells and makes ceramic art. With Accion’s help, she secured working capital to continue helping kids and adults alike explore and learn about art in the local community.

“Everyone needs access to the right financial tools to pursue more from life,” said Dennis White, president and chief executive officer of Metlife Foundation. “We have committed $200 million over the next five years to help low-income individuals and families get access to safe and affordable financial products and services, and we believe Accion’s work in local communities across the nation gives us the unique opportunity to help test new technology solutions and scale the impact of our investment for the benefit of more Americans.”

About the Accion U.S. Network

As the largest nationwide nonprofit micro- and small business lending network in the United States, we connect small business owners with the accessible financing and advice it takes to create or grow healthy businesses. Since 1991, members of the Accion U.S. Network have collectively made over 53,000 loans, totaling over $436 million. Additionally, over 500,000 business owners have turned to Accion for financial and business advice via workshops, online tools, and one-on-one consultations. Globally, Accion is a pioneer in microfinance, reaching millions of individuals through its international network of partners. For more information, visit http://usnetwork.accion.org. For more information on Accion small business loans in the United States, please visit http://us.accion.org.

About MetLife Foundation

MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2013, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $650 million in grants and $70 million in program-related investments to organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. Today, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing financial inclusion, committing $200 million over the next five years to help build a secure future for individuals and communities around the world. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit www.metlife.org.

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