Mastercard Strive USA: One Year Later

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November 14, 2023 4:46 PM EST

NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / November 14, 2023 / The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Mastercard Strive Community

One year after the launch of Strive USA, Mastercard’s U.S. small business initiative is now supporting small businesses in 43 states and working closely with 16 prominent organizations. Here we provide an update on our work and progress – and where we go next.

In the heart of Columbia, South Carolina, Optus Bank has been a beacon of hope for small businesses often excluded from the traditional banking system. Optus Bank was the state’s first Black-owned bank, and their mission has remained the same for over a century: Ensuring that wealth building is not just for the wealthy.

Strive USA grantee, CNote, is driven by the same principles and helps institutions like Optus Bank invest capital into underserved communities at scale. CNote has facilitated the movement of deposits from corporate and institutional investors to Optus Bank to help scale their lending programs and reach – thereby increasing opportunity for small businesses in South Carolina.

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth launched Strive USA in September 2022 to help more small businesses succeed by working with impact-focused organizations like CNote to expand and deepen their reach. Over the span of five years, Strive USA will support five million small businesses in the United States. Strive USA is part of Mastercard’s broader Strive initiative, a portfolio of philanthropic programs aimed at helping small businesses around the world thrive in the digital economy.

Our coalition today includes community financial institutions, technical assistance providers, commercial banks, large foundations, and others. We are supporting small businesses in 43 states – from New Hampshire to Florida in the East; Alabama through Louisiana and Texas in the South; Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, and other states in the Midwest, and almost all Western states, including New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Our partners have deployed over $22 billion in growth capital to small businesses and reached over 68,000 small businesses so far.

Seizing the moment

Through Strive USA, we’re bringing a diverse range of players together at an extraordinary moment in history to build a more efficient and equitable support system for small businesses. Several key factors have converged and provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the small business landscape and drive more inclusive economic growth both locally and nationally:

  • More than 10.5 million small businesses have been formed since 2021 – the highest recorded number for a two-year period ever.
  • U.S. community financial institutions have experienced a remarkable three-fold growth in assets over five years.
  • Federal government initiatives such as the State Small Business Credit Initiative and the Inflation Reduction Act have directed tens of billions of dollars to support historically underserved entrepreneurs and communities.

Despite this progress, too many small businesses still lack the support they need. In many cases, resources may be available, but inefficient and fragmented small business ecosystems make it difficult for business owners to find and access them.

Building a better support system for small businesses

Through our partner network, Strive USA is addressing three common roadblocks for small businesses: getting capital, going digital, and growing networks and know-how.

As a private sector-led philanthropy program, Strive USA has the opportunity to play a unique role in strengthening small business ecosystems. Not only can we provide support to strengthen the impact of our grantee network, but we can also tap into the business and digital transformation expertise of Mastercard and its ability to convene cross-sector players across technology, financial services, and government.

Strive USA was designed as a partner-centric program because we cannot drive systemic change alone. We are fortunate to call the below organizations partners in our shared mission to help more main street entrepreneurs continue to succeed and grow.

Our national grantees include:

  • Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) provides small business owners in the U.S. with access to capital, networks, and coaching. Strive USA is working with AOF to leverage their digital educational content, accessed by over a million small businesses every year, to create customized learning journeys tailored to the unique needs of each entrepreneur.
  • BeyGOOD Foundation is the founder of the Black Parade Route, a program that celebrates and supports Black entrepreneurs in cities across the U.S. and abroad through grants, technical assistance, consulting services and media visibility to drive sustainability. Strive USA is providing technical assistance to the entrepreneurs who are part of the program.
  • CNote is a women-led impact platform that uses technology to unlock diversified community investments that enable both institutions and individuals to increase economic mobility and financial inclusion. With support from Strive USA, CNote is scaling an innovative impact reporting and capital needs matching program that connects mission-driven investors with CDFI banks and credit unions.
  • Community Reinvestment Fund, USA works to address social and economic inequity through new financial solutions that help empower people, build sustainable communities, and inspire systemic change. Strive USA is supporting the scaling of their platform and technology services designed to bring small business owners together with responsible lenders while helping mission-aligned partners expand their reach, manage loan portfolios, and provide tailored advisory services and coaching.
  • Grameen America is dedicated to helping low-income entrepreneurial women build businesses to enable financial mobility. Strive USA is helping Grameen America to go digital by helping them build a new loan management platform that will significantly improve both their reach and efficiency, and member experience.
  • Hyphen maximizes the impact of historic federal policies, including the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Hyphen’s primary goal is to accelerate structural change and to improve the material conditions of low-income communities and communities of color. Strive USA support will enable Hyphen to incubate the Initiative for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (IIE), a $100 million national effort to expand access to capital for small businesses owned by people of color.
  • Inclusiv is a certified CDFI intermediary that is instrumental in driving private and public investment in credit unions to build wealth for individuals, households, businesses, and communities formerly excluded from the financial mainstream. Strive USA is working with Inclusiv to build a small business loan participation platform that will enable their members to increase the amount of affordable capital available for small business lending.
  • Momentus Capital is working to transform traditional financial systems that have failed to address systemic issues of inequality, economic empowerment, and the widening racial wealth gap through a family of mission-driven organizations. Strive USA is supporting both the development of an alternative credit product that does not rely on credit scores and scaling its digital lending products across its 250+ member network.
  • The National Urban League (NUL) is a civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment of historically underserved communities. Its Entrepreneurship Centers provide management counseling, mentoring, and training services to entrepreneurs. Strive USA is supporting the Entrepreneurship Centers of five NUL affiliates: the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, the Birmingham Urban League, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, the Los Angeles Urban League, and the Urban League of Louisiana.
  • Next Street designs and develops solutions supporting small businesses nationwide. In partnership with Strive USA and The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), Next Street has launched a digital platform, NYC Funds Finder (powered by NXST Scale), that enables small businesses in New York City to connect and access affordable capital options and free 1-on-1 financing assistance to help them start, run, and grow their businesses.
  • Our Village United supports the growth of Black solopreneurs and microbusinesses by delivering targeted technical assistance and shared professional services that empower business owners to grow their operations and scale their businesses. Strive USA is supporting Our Village United’s expansion as part of their collaboration with BeyGOOD Foundation’s Black Parade Route.

We’re also working with partners to connect small businesses with expert organizations in their own communities:

  • The Birmingham Business Resource Center (BBRC) advances economic development in Birmingham, Alabama’s underserved communities by providing innovative financial solutions, hands-on technical assistance, and access to capital and market opportunities for Black and other minority-owned small businesses. Strive USA is supporting BBRC’s programs related to vendor and supplier development, business growth and development, and capital access.
  • Urban Impact is a place-based community and economic development organization in the Historic 4th Avenue Business District that advances asset building, economic opportunity, and revitalization through support for small businesses, property owners, and developers. Strive USA is supporting their Ready for the World program, which prepares small businesses for tourism; their BECOME Accelerator program, which connects small businesses with networks, educational expertise, and resources; and their IMPACT Loan Fund, which provides businesses with technical assistance and microloans.
  • New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) is the official economic development organization for the City of New Orleans and seeks to ensure inclusive and holistic economic development that results in financial security and prosperity for all New Orleanians. Strive USA is supporting NOLABA’s InvestNOLA initiative, which helps high-growth businesses expand and scale through access to management education, market opportunities, capital, and online tools; and its Resilient Corridors Initiative, which provides technical assistance and capital to micro- and small businesses located in seven historically disinvested neighborhoods.
  • The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) inspires and empowers underserved entrepreneurs in the Metro Atlanta area to overcome the unique barriers they face in building thriving businesses. Strive USA is supporting RICE’s Big IDEAS curriculum by providing RICE stakeholders with technical and financial assistance, and pro bono education that helps entrepreneurs create an action plan for a sustainable business.
  • The St. Louis Community Foundation works with the community and donors to build and preserve a more equitable and vibrant region. Strive USA is supporting the Northside Economic Empowerment Center in offering business empowerment, capacity building, and workforce development services in North St. Louis. The program is also leveraging American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds allocated to the City of St. Louis.

To stay informed about the latest news from Strive USA, please join our mailing list here.

Originally published by Mastercard Strive Community

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