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Grameen America, major nonprofit for women entrepreneurs, opens Atlanta office


Grameen America, the fastest-growing nonprofit microfinance organization in the United States, recently opened its Atlanta office. 

Atlanta is the 25th U.S. city where the fund has set up operations. The office is being funded through partnerships with The Studio@Blue Meridian, Truist Foundation, Investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith, and Regions Bank which donated $1 million. 

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony which was held at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs in southwest Atlanta, billionaire investor Smith, known as the richest African American, gave the welcoming remarks.

Smith said, “This program is so important. While 11.6% of the US. Population lives in poverty, that rate jumps to 18.8% for black women. And we all know that owning a business is one of the most efficient ways to produce generational wealth and escape the cyclical nature of poverty.”

Smith added, “But only one and a half percent of black women own a business. This is due partly to the barriers they must overcome to launch their ventures, including the fact that they are 20% less likely to be able to fund their business with bank loans, and typically, they receive less than 1% of annual venture capital invested.”

No stranger to Atlanta, in 2019, Smith was the commencement speaker at Morehouse College and paid off the tuition debt of the 135th graduating class. 

Smith is The founder, chairman, and CEO of VISTA Equity Partners Smith has established a Student Freedom Initiative to enable thousands of young people to graduate from historically black colleges and universities free from the “shackles of debt.”

In a release, Grameen America stated it has “disbursed over $420,000 in affordable capital through 210 microloans to 169 financially underserved women of color living in the metro Atlanta area and surrounding communities. Thanks to this partnership, Grameen America will be able to expand its reach into the local community to support a greater number of under-resourced entrepreneurial women. The new branch will also receive technical and other forms of assistance from local community partners, including The City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, Startup Atlanta, Cathedral of Faith, and On the Rise Financial Center.”

Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America said, “Atlanta has long been a leading hub for entrepreneurship and growth, and a city with a clear need for access to affordable capital and financial services among women and especially Black women. We’re proud to bring a variety of funding and technical assistance partners together to help connect women of color with financial services while positively impacting and sustaining their local communities.”

Grameen America provides low-income women business owners with loan capital, financial education, asset- and credit-building, and peer support. Since 2008, Grameen America has reached more than 170,000 women living in underserved communities across the United States and recently achieved a record milestone of investing over $3 billion in capital to emerging entrepreneurs.

Jung pointed out in her remarks that the Atlanta area is a leading metro in the Southeast with significant growth over time. However, data shows that growth has not always been inclusive or equitable in reaching all members of the region.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.5% of people in Atlanta live in poverty, compared to just 12.8% of all Americans. The city, which is nearly 50% Black, also has the highest rate of income inequality of all large cities in the country. 

While Atlanta has one of the highest percentages of Black-owned businesses in the U.S., many entrepreneurs rely on personal wealth to start or build their businesses and have limited access to affordable capital.

Several of the funded Black and Hispanic women business owners attended the ceremony. 

(For more information on Grameen America and how to apply for a loan go to: www.grameenamerica.org)

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