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Near Westside Initiative

Shawndell Burden tried several times to apply for a business loan to expand her hair salon, but she was always declined. One banker even said that her business idea was crazy and that she was sure to fail.

Never losing sight of her dream, Shawndell kept trying. Now, she is one of the first funding recipients of the Near Westside Initiative's Microloan Program, created for existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs located in the Near Westside neighborhood of Syracuse. A Community Foundation grant served as a loan-guarantee to help make the program possible.

In its efforts to revitalize one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, the Near Westside Initiative recognizes the importance of a strong local business community. Small businesses create job opportunities for residents and foster organic wealth creation, but the types of business loans that most banks offer are too large for their needs. In response, the Near Westside Initiative created a new microloan program in collaboration with Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union that allows neighborhood businesses to apply for smaller loans that are a better fit for their business plans. In addition, each recipient works one-on-one with a local business consultant who can help guide them after the loan is awarded.

Shawndell credits the unique program with helping her fine tune her business plan to make it more desirable for a loan. Now she is on track to expand her salon business by hiring five new employees and renovating to make room for her expanded client base. Her story proves that a positive outlook, strong determination and smart ideas can take you to new heights.