by Julianne McCollum

I remember when I was starting out, I needed a credit line from my big national bank, but I couldn’t qualify. Then when I didn’t need it, I could. Sometimes you just need a little extra fuel in the tank – or money in the bank – to take the next step of growth to achieve your business dreams. Bootstrapping it, like I did, is prudent and slow. So, if you want to move faster, what happens if you don’t have the cash on hand, a rich uncle or can’t qualify for a loan? There are some ways to get around the system and thankfully we have some great resources in our community that have been established that female entrepreneurs (and even male) can take advantage of. 

Five years ago, Tory Burch visited Charlotte and I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the Elizabeth Street Capital initiative, alongside Bank of America, in which she aims to connect female entrepreneurs with much-needed capital lenders. She was a bootstrapper herself and was frustrated by the lack of bank interest in early years. While I was disappointed by not getting a pair of shoes at the launch, I was encouraged that resources were evolving to help ambitious ladies. 

Show Me the Money: If you just need some cash

Your business wants to borrow money for growth, expansion, hiring, acquisition, etc. You go to your bank or credit union and apply for a loan. But your bank tells you that you don’t have enough collateral (assets to secure the loan), so they turn you down. WTF! 

Instead of giving up on your dream, the City of Charlotte created a fund, the Charlotte Community Capital Fund, which can guarantee up to 85% of your loan amount, meaning you don’t need as much collateral to qualify for a loan and they take the “risk” off the bank’s shoulders. It’s really that simple. Startup businesses are going to be looked at differently than one who has a proven ability to repay a loan, of course. 


Expansion Mode: If you want to purchase a building or equipment

You are trucking along with your business and need to open a new location, store, need some expensive equipment (brewery perhaps?) or want to buy an office building. Get it, girl! Great news – you don’t have to pay commercial rates if you use a unique loan product called a 504 Loan. Rates fluctuate just like any other loan but at this particular moment, a sample 20-year rate is 4.758% which is under prime and a killer deal. Just for comparison, commercial mortgage rates on SBA loans and USDA loans are typically 2% to 2.5% higher than the prime residential mortgage rate. Therefore, if the banks in town are quoting 4.0% on 30-year home loans, you will probably pay between 6.0% and 6.5% for an SBA loan or a USDA loan. So if you were to borrow $300,000, that would save you about $400 each month in payments by choosing the 504 program. [JM1] 

That is similar to the CCCF product where a nonprofit institution secures the loan and finances 40%, the bank finances 50%, you put down a 10% down payment.  According to BEFCOR’sexecutive director, Elaine Fairman, “The low down payment and low interest rates of the 504 program are the greatest benefits that lenders enjoy.” 

There are only 3 places that offer 504 loans in Charlotte: 

Where to Start:

Before you get started using these resources, you may want to have these things on hand:

  1. Personal and Business Loans for the last 3 years
  2. Resume (or LinkedIn profile) that’s pretty tight
  3. Business/marketing plan that lists business description with history, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), positioning/competitive advantage, target market, competition, etc.  If you have one and want an audit of your plan or want personalized counseling, contact Central Piedmont Community College Small Business Centeror Mecklenburg County’s Office of Economic Development’s business lending and credit coaching guru, Fred Atiemo

Don’t forget about centers that exist like The Institute’s Women’s Business Center of Charlotte (WBCC)who might be able to match you up to other resources. 

Go achieve those dreams and don’t let lack of capital get in your way! 


Julianne McCollum is the Head Quack and Principal of Yellow Duck Marketing which she founded in 2011 with the desire to create a company that’s both responsible and passionate about creating a female-friendly workplace.  After leaving her job as Vice President of Marketing & Technology for a $2 Billion mixed-use real estate developer, she built the company to over 100 clients in a few years. She earned her BA in Consumer Sciences from Purdue University, her MBA from Wake Forest University, some rounds at the School of Hard Knocks and is a proud Leadership Charlotte alumna. She calls Plaza Midwood home, where she lives with her gorgeous adopted baby boy and husband.

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