Annie Eser, director of the D.C. Rebuild Bond Program. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and SMBX, a marketplace for issuing and buying Small Business Bonds™, have partnered to establish the D.C. Rebuild Bond Program, which will help small businesses in the city to raise capital from their community. 

Through the program, local businesses can apply to issue Small Business Bonds™ with zero origination fees and private lending fees. They will also receive free marketing support from SMBX. 

The D.C. Rebuild Bond Program will run for five years and focus on serving historically disadvantaged businesses in Wards 5,7 and 8. 

Once a small business is listed on the SMBX marketplace, it has the ability to borrow capital from existing customers at competitive interest rates at or below those of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. In addition to raising funds to expand their businesses, this also allows them to foster a more loyal customer base. 

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw D.C. residents step up to support local, small businesses, and with the D.C. Rebuild Bond Program, they can help small businesses raise the capital they need to succeed, while allowing small investors to support businesses in their community,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. “With Mayor Bowser’s focus on historically disadvantaged businesses in Wards 5, 7, and 8, we are leveling the playing field so that entrepreneurs and their workers can reach their full potential.”

Years ago, Ben Lozano, who is a second generation Mexican-American, co-founded SMBX because while working at his father’s accounting firm, he witnessed firsthand the troubled relationship between banks and minority business owners. The banking system was simply not designed for them, and Lozano wanted to create a company that would address this inequity. 

According to Annie Eser, director of the D.C. Rebuild Bond Program, minority business owners have historically faced challenges to accessing capital because their books are not in order and they are unaware of existing programs that aid in raising funding. 

“One of the things that SMBX is focused on through our technical assistance support with the Mayor’s Office is to be able to help remove some of those barriers, and the first thing is really focusing on being able to get them to the start line,” said Eser. 

The D.C. Rebuild Bond Program intends to raise $5 million in bonds bought by the community, which will then be funneled back into the local economy. Overall, the goal is to keep wealth local and ensure that every small business owner who needs capital has the opportunity to access it.

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