How Community Development Financial Institutions Foster Economic Justice for Underserved Entrepreneurs — Dr. Kim Carter Evans

Community development financial institutions (CDIF) are playing an increasingly important role in minority and women-owned business growth and development. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, area director for the UGA Small Business Development Center, welcomes back Kim Carter Evans, Vice President and Managing Director of the Southeast Region with TruFund Financial Services, to continue their discussion on this important topic.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome back to the Playbook, Kim.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Thank you for welcoming me back. I’m happy to be back.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well, CDFIs have played a major role and continue to play a major role in financing some of our most underutilized small businesses in this country, so I’m always anxious to continue this discussion. Well, before we get into that, tell us a little bit about the now, Dr. Kim Carter Evans, and kind of a little bit about your background and what brought you to do the work that you’re doing today.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Yes, it’s interesting to hear that now. Dr. Kim Carter Evans. I just completed my doctoral study.

Mark Collier:
Congratulations

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
In business administration and entrepreneurship. So we are speaking about entrepreneurship just this recently in May. And so it gives me an opportunity to just further serve the small business community in a different capacity. So really excited, being well received and it there’re some changes that’s happening with Dr. Kim. So I’ve been working on several projects. Of course, I’m still leading the southeast region for TruFund Financial. So we’re doing some great work. I think since last that we spoke, we were entering the Atlanta market. So now we are here and looking forward to serving the small business community but as I stated, I’ve been working on several projects, doing some books, of course, entrepreneurial and business development focused. So again, just looking to share as much knowledge as I can with the small business community.

Mark Collier:
I love it. All right. I see you’ve updated your LinkedIn profile too, to include kingdom and community wealth builder. So what does that mean to you personally, and how does that work you do in your professional capacity, volunteer efforts and kind of consultancy support those efforts?

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
So it’s really hard. We have our bios but it’s really hard for me to tell you who I am without sharing with you whose I am and so even in the professional capacity, I represent my faith. And so when I switched from just leading in with the title and sharing with the world that my divine passion and mission and purpose is really around kingdom and community wealth building. So everything that I do, whether it be in the capacity of my leadership role at TruFund, any of my personal endeavors, consultancy, is really around that notion of building wealth in the communities that I care about. Building wealth in the kingdom communities and faith-based communities. So just really proud to wear that as a badge of honor and sometimes it can be cliche to represent and leap first with your faith.

Mark Collier:
Well, I hear that a lot, but here’s the differentiator for me. A lot of people can talk about faith and kingdom building, but I watch what you do in action, and you’re one of those people who’s putting your actions behind the words that you preach. So I just commend all the work that you’re doing.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Thank you. Thank you.

Mark Collier:
All right. You’ve also written a few books since we last spoke, so can you tell me a little bit more about those projects?

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Absolutely. So I joined a group of ladies. Again, we’re looking to share as much knowledge as we can with entrepreneurial community. So visionary, Michelle Thomas, had the vision of leaving trails of insight to the next generation of female entrepreneurs. So we pinned the Exceptional Woman Tour and the Exceptional Woman Book. So it’s really around entrepreneurship and business development and really leading and sharing everything that we’ve been through as, again, a group of ladies, 25 ladies. So sharing everything that we’ve been through and hopefully leaving that trail so the next generation doesn’t have to repeat some of those same mistakes that we’ve even made. So really be transparent about some of the mistakes, looking at investment mistakes, and then just really sharing what things worked well so that we can just really lay out the playbook.

Mark Collier:
I love it. Playbook. Just like my show.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Yes, lay out the playbook.

Mark Collier:
No, I mean, that’s important. I mean, ladies like you who have a lot of experience, a lot of education, you have a lot to share. And you said something very important about so others don’t repeat the same mistakes and that’s a big deal because when you’re able to avoid some of those pitfalls and mistakes, you’re able to propel yourself a little further down the road. A little bit more quickly. So, makes perfect sense.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
And that’s exactly what we aim to do.

Mark Collier:
All right. So one of the buzz words of today is economic justice. We’ve heard a lot about that in the political circles and even business circles, as well. So kind of give me what your definition of economic justice is and why it’s important to.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
You. So when I think about economic justice is really around access. So we hear often in the small business community access to capital, but across the board, economic justice is having equal access to the capital, equal access to the business advisement, the resources, the tools that can help further communities and help close that wealth gap that… When you think about years ago, there was a wealth gap but even though we have progressed in so many ways, in so many other ways, we still have so far to go in closing that racial wealth gap.

Mark Collier:
We do. Oh, we do. That’s why the work that you do at TruFund as well as the other network of CDFIs is so important.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Is so important.

Mark Collier:
It gets that capital into the hands of the underserved entrepreneurs who are then able to not only create jobs in their communities, but also start to… A multiplier effect starts to kick in.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Yeah. And that’s the notion of CDFIs. We are community development financial institutions, so very different from banks, but it’s no slight to the bank, but we’re just different. We’re mission focused. We’re mission aligned and so it’s really about developing the communities, developing those businesses, and as you stated, putting them in position to really help drive community and economic development by hiring right from within. And so when we… Again, going back to economic justice and closing that racial wealth divide, it really starts at the foundation and it’s really providing opportunity for the people. And so investing in those entrepreneurs and positioning them to feed back into the economy of their local communities, that’s an investment that it has a greater return and it’s a residual return that happens over years because you’re hiring then from the community, then those individuals are able to then cross invest back into their communities and then you see large scale economic development start to happen.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. It’s a ripple effect, as well it should be and it all begins with what you said at the beginning of the answer, access.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Access. It’s all about access, access and exposure.

Mark Collier:
Yeah. All right. So perfect segue into my next question. Why did you choose to work for CDFI? I mean, I know the great work they do, but I want to hear your vision for why you decided to plant roots there.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Absolutely. So when I think about my origin story, I am a third generation entrepreneur. So my grandfather and my father, were both entrepreneurs. I’ve had several entrepreneurial ventures. So that lens gave me an opportunity to see the hard work that they had to put into it and we’re talking about 60 plus years ago when we… Liking this to my grandfather and while I wasn’t around to see that, when I was a little girl, I used to ride on his clothing route truck with him. My father was a state farm insurance agent and so just to see the passion that he had for the community, the work that he poured in, but again, the unequal access that could help really further and build and help him sustain his business and really do things on a larger scale. And so having that lens, I started my career in economic development. So the entirety of my career has been in economic and business development, which is 20 plus years. We don’t want to date… I don’t want to date myself…

Mark Collier:
You started working when you were two years old, right?

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
I did.

Mark Collier:
Okay, good.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
I did. I really did. But starting, the work chose me. It’s just been a part of my heart and my lifeblood, for as long as I can remember. So having the opportunity, my first job out of college was in an economic development department with the municipality in New Orleans.

Mark Collier:
So that was ordained.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
It was ordained, it was absolutely ordained. And so on that side of things, I was able to really see the policy that was in the legislation for small business owners and really actively engage in starting to do this great work from a different lens. And so from there, I went to a position at the federal government with the Minority Business Development Agency. I’ve also worked with state level government and academic development. And then I shifted to the philanthropic side because when you think about your traditional banking institutions, there’s so many regulatory guidelines and so to be able to work for a community development financial institution and do the great work, do that mission aligned work, it marries the mission and my purpose with my professional career, but also gives me an opportunity to advocate for those that can’t advocate for themselves.
And so to be in the CDFI space and then to also hold the role of in the corporate communications department and really promoting and advocating for the small businesses and making sure that the message is out there, that the community understands that CDFIs are here to stay and we’re here to serve. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and loving what you do. As I see here, you absolutely love what you do and you do it so well but that is why I chose the CDFI. I really wanted to do work that matters and have great impact in the work that I do every day.

Mark Collier:
No, that makes perfect sense. And I can personally testify that you guys walk the walk in terms of your philanthropic efforts. We have an upcoming women’s conference and you guys stepped up to sponsor our conference, which is going to be… Do some great impactful things. So we appreciate your partnership.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Thank you for that. We are really excited. We are so excited to, even that you all thought of us to offer us that opportunity. Again, it gives us an opportunity to really share the great work that TruFund is doing here in the Atlanta market, but also to serve the women business owners that are here and that leads right into national small business month for women. And so again, just really excited…

Mark Collier:
And that’s here in September?

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
It’s in October. We’re doing that event.

Mark Collier:
In October. That’s right.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
In October, we’re going to do that event. And that is the kickoff for National Small Women’s Business Month.

Mark Collier:
I wasn’t aware of that. Okay. Well, very good.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Interested in that.

Mark Collier:
All right. So when you were last on the show, we talked about TruFund and as you said earlier, they were just entering into the Georgia market. So now that you’re here, kind of tell me some of the highlights of some of the work that you’ve done with either small business owners, community partners, or stakeholders. Let me hear some of the high level accomplishments.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Absolutely. So very high level, TruFund has made investments through our new markets tax credit equity platform in the Georgia Covenant House. So that was a really key investment that we were able to make and be a part of that capital stack. So that building is now open. They had the grand opening a few months ago. So I was able to see it from inception, from the point at which they were raising capital to the point at which that building was resurrected. And so that is an initiative that will work with homeless teens to get them off the street and really prepare them for life in society. And so to, again, it’s that mission driven work. So to be able to be a part of the capital investments in projects that really matter and that are going to have great impact on the communities, it just really means so much to me.
So I was really proud to be there at the groundbreaking and then also be there again at the grand opening but that’s just one of the things that we’re doing. As you stated, we’re working with partners such as the Georgia SPDC, putting together great events, but not just for events sake. Again, very impactful events. We’ve been actively lending in the market as well and did quite a bit of work through the PPP program and other COVID relief programs, but now we’re kind of coming on the other side of that. So with the CDFI’s partners that we have here, we have been doing a series of assessments.
Really talking amongst ourselves around, so we understand where CDFIs fit in that response mechanism but now that we are really coming on the other side of that, what does that look like now? And how do we take these business owners that have suffered greatly for the last two years? And even though there were resources there, there’s still a layer of suffering and how do we take them and just hold them and pick them up and take them to the next level?
So that’s really what we’ve been collaborating on now. We just had a CDFI summit here in Atlanta where National CDFIs came in from all over to really have those strategy sessions.

Mark Collier:
Okay. No, that’s going to be important. And it’s a perfect segue to my next question. I mean, COVID 19 had an impact and it oftentimes a lasting impact on many, many industries. So specifically, how did COVID 19, how did it impact the work that you do? And if so, how did TruFund kind of respond to the small businesses during the COVID environment other than PPP? Because I know you guys did so much more.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
We did so much work. And so I’m going to give you a twofold answer there. So from the perspective of a CDFI like TruFund, and I know this is also reflective of so many of my CDFI peers, COVID stretched us. It really exasperated our presence in the market. So people now know what CDFIs are, who the CDFIs are, and the work that we do and fortunately, it really gave us an opportunity to raise capital like we’ve never been able to before. And so what that means is we now have a greater opportunity to serve even more small businesses but with that comes… With any level of growth comes the growing pain. And so those are some of the things that my CDFI peers and I really talk about and strategize or just to see, “Hey, are you experiencing some of the same growing pains?”
And the resounding answer is, yes, we’re all going through very similar things. We hired a lot of people. Teams are growing, the management of those teams but I think we did a great job at it. We were able to expand, but in the midst of even expanding and trying to get our arms wrapped around this new model and working remotely, that’s a totally different thing. We were able to serve business owners in a way that I don’t think anyone even expected. And so TruFund has had an opportunity to do a few live surveys where we brought in a data firm to really take a minute to assess the small business owners, spend some time and talk to them about what was their experience during COVID. And so the responses from that were really great. What was shared was the amount of time that CDFIs have to spend with those small business owners.
So on average, we spent about 2.5 or three hours per business owner. So they weren’t just shuffled through in a way that, unfortunately, other entities just don’t have that type of capacity and it’s just not their mission to really sit and hand hold. So they have the ability to hand those businesses off to CDFIs, and we can walk them through those processes. We did a lot of work there. We did a lot of work assessing the resiliency of small businesses, because of course, when something like COVID 19 comes up, business owners realized that they were not as resilient as they once thought that they were. And so programming has been put in place. Business advisement has been put in place to really help them become more resilient businesses so that they’re ready for anything else that comes their way.

Mark Collier:
All right. So now let’s look into the crystal ball here, and let’s see what’s next for TruFund. I’d say the CDFI industry in general, and TruFund in particular, what do you kind of see as the next steps? And that’ll be… We’ll close out our questioning with that.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
So as I stated earlier, just recently, we had the CDFI summit led by Calvert Impact Capital here in Atlanta. And that Calvert Impact Capital is a group that really galvanized investors during COVID 19. And so they were able to raise dollars to put forth funds like New York Forward and also SOAR, which is a Southern Opportunity And Resiliency fund. And what we’re doing now is looking at… Because those programs were so well received by the market, so it’s how do we duplicate programs like that to just serve the businesses in general? Even when it’s not a disaster, since the products were so well received. And then also because there’s this influx of capital into the CDFI industry, we want to make sure that we’re good stewards over the dollars that are coming our way. So again, strategizing around what is it that the business community needs now? How does that look different?
And then also thinking futuristically so that we can make those projections on what might come down the path and how do we best utilize the resources that we’re getting now to position our industry to be of better response? And to, again, be good prudent stewards over the dollars. And so for TruFund, as we have come in full speed ahead into Atlanta, we are launching various products that we’ve had the opportunity to launch in other markets. We’re looking forward to raising the additional capital so that we can offer those products here in Atlanta, such as our WRAP product. So we recently, in 2022, launched the real estate acquisition program and so what that is a program that is specifically for entrepreneurs who, potentially, they’re leasing their space and they desire ownership. So we know what it means to have home ownership on the personal side, but it’s bringing that same notion into the business sector and to say to those entrepreneurs, “You’ve been leasing so you’re paying the money. This is what ownership can do for you.”
So this is not a program where we’re funneling money to investors that just want to buy up a bunch of property and increase their portfolio. This is really for those entrepreneurs that are, again, they’re leasing and this is an opportunity for them to have ownership. Yeah, they own their business, they own their space, and then also lease space. It positions them to be able to lease space if they get the right amount of square footage.
So the program requires 60% occupancy of the business owner’s space. So it is owner-occupied real estate, and with this program, TruFund has the ability to do 95% loan to value and you know that’s unheard of. And when you’re thinking about general commercial real estate, most small businesses have to put up about 20 or 20 plus percent and unfortunately they just don’t have that in the communities that we serve. So we’re talking about the minority communities, the low to moderate income communities, and those that are underserved, they don’t have the 20%. So when we then, again, look at equity and access this gives those business owners an opportunity to have a piece of the pie.

Mark Collier:
Got it. Dr. Kim Carter Evans, Vice President and managing director with TruFund Financial Services. Thank you so much for taking the time. Just catching me up on the great work you guys are doing here. I see a bright future for TruFund and for the CDFIs in general, both in Georgia and beyond, in terms of being that catalyst for access.

Dr. Kim Carter Evans:
Yes, I do as well. Thank you so much for having me again.

Mark Collier:
All right.


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