- Portland, Oregon-based New Seasons Market has launched a microloan program called the New Seasons Partner Fund, according to a company press release.
- The fund will offer low-interest loans and business mentorship to underrepresented food entrepreneurs who historically struggle to get capital. This includes businesses operated by women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA individuals and social mission-based companies, the company said.
- New Seasons will allow independent food producers who have been in business for at least two years and have fewer than 25 employees to apply for loans. The program will be funded through sales of New Seasons Partner Brand private label products, with loans starting at $5,000 to $25,000.
New Seasons' move is tied to corporate social responsibility, but it also provides an opportunity for the specialty grocer to secure relationships with promising suppliers. Local products are still very popular, and retailers across the country have introduced assistance programs, contests and other initiatives aimed at scaling and identifying niche producers.
Supporting local, independent business owners who may not qualify for traditional financing also falls in line with the natural grocer’s social mission to build community and take care of its staff and partners.
Loans will be awarded four times a year, the company said. Recipients must be looking to finance new business growth, such as purchasing equipment to expand production, bringing a new product to market or developing marketing materials.
In addition to monetary funds, New Seasons said the loans include business support and mentorship from local business resources and New Seasons staff — from help with packaging and transportation to handling balance sheets and marketing.
There has long been a disparity in the availability of capital for minority-owned businesses. The reasons vary, but a variety of studies and reports show that there is unequal access and opportunity when it comes to financing a business.