In January, the Sand Dollar Funds received an initial donation of $5,000 in seed money to create a revolving loan fund for the Moore County-based community development organization. In addition, the local nonprofit has formed a new partnership with Piedmont Business Capital to help new or expanding businesses in economically distressed areas of the Sandhills have a better shot at success.

“We want to be able to support local, small, ideally minority businesses in West Southern Pines and Moore County in general,” said Sand Dollar board member Lowell Simon, a small business owner and retired teacher.

The goal of the organization is to provide micro-enterprise loans through a revolving loan fund and to provide technical assistance to small business owners. The revolving loan fund is designed to be self-replenishing, using interest and principal payments on old loans to issue
new ones.

The Greensboro Community Development Fund provided the seed loan capital for Sand Dollar Funds and has also agreed to provide loan application review and loan servicing assistance while Sand Dollars Funds is developing the need and capability in-house.

Simon said the organization hopes to leverage the initial loan to grow the fund through relationships with local banks in the area.

 “The underlying goal is to create jobs. If we can offer a microloan of a $1,000 or perhaps a little more to help a business to get started or expand, then that in turn creates maybe one job here or two jobs there,” he said. “Then as the money is loaned out and paid back, we can recirculate it.”

The Sand Dollar Funds board is comprised of Simon; Wilson Lester, executive director Piedmont Business Capital; Bill Ross, an educator and coach; Xinyan Shi, economics professor at UNC Pembroke; Fenton Wilkinson, community organizer and principal with Integrity Systems; and David Zmiewsky, branch manager of First Bank in Seven Lakes.

The organization is also working closely with Sandhills Cooperation Association to identify and nurture new start-up businesses in need of funding.

“We see these two organizations as conscious collaborators. There are two separate boards of directors and they are separate entities but we both are interested in creating new business,”
said Fenton Wilkinson, who also serves on the SCA board. “We are working
together towards the same end.”

Because it is a nonprofit, the Sand Dollar Funds board has more flexibility with its loan criteria and can provide financial backing to entrepreneurs who may not otherwise qualify for a traditional commercial or business loan.

“These are non-traditional loans and you don’t necessarily have to have a stellar credit rating to be eligible,” Simon said. “But the other part is we can also give technical assistance to the loan recipients with advice and guidance.”

 “We have a very talented board with a lot of experience. We want to give these businesses the best chance of success, so the loans can be repaid and we can keep them revolving. That is why they are called revolving loans.”

Find out more about the application process or volunteer to help at sanddollarfund.com.

(Story by Laura Douglass reprinted from The Pilot 2-6-19.  Photo courtesy of The Pilot.)