Putting people over payments

The Business Equity Fund uses deferments to support businesses

March 26, 2020

By Orlando Watkins, Vice President for Programs

Marianne Lancaster runs Lancaster Packaging, which received the first loan from the Business Equity Fund and is consistently ranked among the largest woman-owned businesses in Massachusetts.

The Business Equity Fund at the Boston Foundation was launched in 2018 with a simple goal in mind: providing patient capital to established minority-owned businesses so they could invest in growth. Since the fund launch, we have been supporting minority-owned businesses with loans that allowed them to create jobs, grow their facilities and have greater impact on their communities. 

The Business Equity Fund is designed to be regenerative – loans from the Fund get repaid, so the money can be loaned to another generation of businesses. In these unprecedented times, though, we need to recognize that the pressure of repayment of the loans themselves could undo the good works the program is designed for. The Fund is designed to create jobs and successful businesses. Therefore, when so much of the economy is forced to pause, it only makes sense that we hit pause as well.

"The logic is simple. If we can relieve business owners of this obligation today and defer it to more stable times, those owners can focus on things that matter right now – supporting their employees."

The BEF team agreed last week to offer an  immediate six-month deferral of all loan payments to our portfolio companies as a way to provide some temporary financial relief. This deferment will take effect immediately for the April, May, June, July, August and September 2020 loan payments. The logic is simple. If we can relieve business owners of this obligation today and defer it to more stable times, those owners can focus on things that matter right now –supporting their employees and ensuring that when the threat of coronavirus ends, they can once again fulfill their goals.

At a time when we are looking at the need for trillions of dollars in support for people around the country, we hope this is a model of smaller ways that funders and others can support the organizations at the heart of so many communities. And because the Fund is part of a larger ecosystem, including the Business Equity Initiative, we are also able to offer other supports to help these companies weather this crisis.

We also will bring more of our Foundation-wide resources to bear. We will continue to work with donors and partners to find ways to repurpose our current work to be in service to this community of businesses, and work with our partners to find new and relevant ways to support entrepreneurs of color and their businesses at this unprecedented moment for Boston and the nation.

Because the point of the Business Equity Fund isn’t just paying it back – it’s paying it forward for a stronger future.

To learn more about the Boston Foundation's Business Equity Fund and how you can support its work, visit tbf.org/bef.