Ramping Up The Flow Of Loans To Immigrant Small Business Owners

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Gabriela Campoverde wants to help deploy more capital to immigrant small business owners—and to do so by improving the efficiency of the process. And, she believes, if your first attempt doesn’t succeed, just keep trying.

When her first attempt—becoming a lender—didn’t work out, she switched gears. Specifically, she formed Miren, an enterprise with a platform aimed at helping banks to invest in low-to-moderate income communities, monitor those investments and, ultimately, increase the flow of funding to small businesses.

With a background in financial services, Campoverde worked in marketing, project management and cybersecurity at American Express and Goldman Sachs. But she had a long-time interest in fintech and, in addition, was frustrated at what she saw as a lack of products for working class immigrant communities.

Then, in 2020, while she was attending The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Campoverde learned about the gap in access to financing for minority small business owners, especially for Latinos. And, quarantining at home in Queens with her family, she saw just how difficult the experience of the pandemic was on much of her community.

With that in mind, while still in school, she went door-to-door, talking to Latino immigrant small business owners about their financial situation and how they’d obtained startup capital. Through those interviews, she got a better understanding of how those small businesses were accessing affordable capital and the lack of resources available to them.

An Idea and a Pivot

That sparked an idea for a business: an enterprise that would lend to small Latino-owned companies, using different criteria from the usual information required to evaluate an enterprise’s creditworthiness. It also would educate borrowers about topics like how to prepare and apply for a loan. But, “When we tried to raise affordable capital for the idea, we failed,” she says. That’s mostly because providers of capital, feeling these were risky ventures, insisted on pricing for that risk accordingly.

So, Campoverde pivoted and, late last year, started talking to microlenders and others that typically are the ones lending to small, risky businesses, tapping money provided by larger financial institutions. Under the Community Reinvestment Act, banks are required to invest in low-to-moderate income communities. Providing those loans, of course, isn’t profitable, since it takes so long to underwrite them. So banks usually microlenders that operate within these communities.

But many lenders, she found, had inefficient systems, sometimes still using manual data entry, multiple Excel sheets or many separate systems, cutting and pasting data from one program to another. “Things can easily fall through the cracks,” says Campoverde.

Perhaps a better approach, she realized, would be developing software that could improve these institutions’ efficiency, allowing them, ultimately, to serve more customers and deploy more capital. So Campoverde created software for loan origination and servicing aimed at microlenders, helping them evaluate applications and track their loans. That also could free up time ,so lenders could spend more time providing technical assistance to small business owners. It went live last fall in a pilot still underway with two institutions.

Now Campoverde and technical lead Luke Fraker are developing another product, allowing financial institutions to monitor CRA investments and aggregate data. Microlenders and others that get money from banks are required to report back about such areas as number of jobs created or changes in a company’s revenue. But they typically send banks all that information using the same disparate systems they employ internally. That means it can be a time-consuming struggle to aggregate all the data they need. The new product will streamline the process and provide a more efficient, faster way to aggregate the information.

Campoverde has raised around $250,000 from competitions, much of that from the AWS Impact Accelerator she recently finished. She has plans to raise a seed round next year.



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