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btaining the necessary capital is a critical step for Arkansas entrepreneurs eager to turn their business dreams into reality. A small business loan or grant can help your budding enterprise flourish. In the Natural State, many opportunities await those who know where to look.

This guide will shed light on Arkansas's various small business loan and grant programs. From traditional bank loans to government-backed lending programs and grants, we will explore the ins and outs of each option, offering insights and tips to help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re opening a coffee shop in Little Rock or launching a tech startup in Fayetteville, this information will be instrumental in kick-starting your venture.

Small business loans in Arkansas

Small business loans can be an indispensable resource to help cover startup costs, purchase inventory, hire staff, and facilitate growth. Before securing a small business loan, it’s essential to do your homework.

Begin by assessing your financial situation and determining how much funding you need. Then, research the different types of loans available, such as traditional bank loans, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, and alternative lenders. Each type has its own set of requirements and benefits.

Build a solid business plan that outlines your goals, target market, and financial projections – lenders will want to see that you have a viable strategy for success. Your personal and business credit scores will impact your eligibility and loan terms.

However, there are still options if you can’t obtain traditional funding. Be prepared to provide documentation, such as financial statements and tax returns, and be patient, as the approval process can take some time.

Keep reading to learn about our top loan and grant picks in Arkansas.

Arkansas Capital

Arkansas Capital is a private organization that focuses on fostering regional economic development. It aims to create and preserve employment opportunities, with an emphasis on stimulating growth and expansion within underserved communities.

It serves as a platform for partnering with banks to provide long-term loans to small and medium-sized businesses, particularly those that don’t meet traditional lending criteria.

It offers a variety of loans with competitive interest rates for:

  • Working capital
  • Startups
  • Commercial real estate
  • Purchasing equipment
  • Refinancing debt​

Communities Unlimited

Communities Unlimited is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides economic opportunities for underserved individuals and communities by providing access to capital.

Through Communities Unlimited, small businesses can apply for loans ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. These loans fill gaps in small business financing and help position businesses for profitable growth, with the goal of creating new jobs and boosting local economic development.

Communities Unlimited also offers a Wells Fargo Small Business Loan and SBA Microloan programs. Women, low-income individuals, veterans, and minority entrepreneurs who require small loans may be eligible for the SBA Microloan Program.

Forge Community Loan Fund

Forge Community Loan Fund, commonly known as FORGE, operates as a nonprofit community loan fund in Arkansas and holds the title of the state's oldest revolving community loan fund. FORGE actively promotes community development and economic sustainability as its primary mission. To accomplish this, FORGE links investors to borrowers, bridges the gap between urban and rural communities, establishes connections between consumers and producers, and ensures that low-income groups can access affordable credit.

In partnership with ReMix Ideas, FORGE launched one of its notable initiatives, the Imani Fund. This microloan program supports under-resourced entrepreneurs in Arkansas by providing them with microloans ranging between $5,000 and $25,000. Moreover, the program offers free technical assistance.

Additionally, the Imani Fund employs an alternative underwriting model to unlock capital for Black-owned businesses. Alongside low-interest financing, this program provides technical and entrepreneurship support, assisting borrowers in establishing and expanding their businesses.

Small business grants in Arkansas

Grants, unlike loans, don’t have to be repaid, so they’re an ideal source of funding. However, they’re usually fiercely competitive and often have stringent requirements.

Grants can be used for various purposes, including purchasing equipment, hiring staff, marketing, and research and development. Grants are offered by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and other entities.

Winning a grant requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a commitment to meeting the grant provider's requirements and expectations. You can improve your chances of successfully obtaining a grant for your business by clearly understanding the application process and staying organized.

Quick Action Loan Guaranty Program

The Quick Action Loan Guaranty Program is administered by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) in partnership with Arkansas banks. It addresses the immediate needs of businesses affected by COVID-19. The program guarantees up to 80% of the principal balance of loans issued by participating lenders. The funds can be used for working capital, inventory purchase, paying employees, and other business operational purposes.

Blue & You Foundation Grants

Blue & You grants are awarded to applicants committed to improving the health of Arkansans. The Arkansas Health Department focuses on initiatives that improve health equity and address social determinants of health. The grant amounts range from $5,000 to $150,000 and are awarded annually on Dec. 15.

In addition, the Blue & You Foundation offers mini-grants ranging from $500 to $2,000, focusing on food security, emergency response equipment, and health initiatives that benefit educational institutions. The mini-grant cycle starts on Jan. 1 and ends on Feb. 15, with grant awards announced on March 15.

Arkansas GrantWatch

GrantWatch helps small businesses in Arkansas find grants related to their needs. It provides information on grants and loans from federal, state, and local governments. GrantWatch also offers assistance in preparing grant proposals.

The takeaway

Securing loans and grants can propel your business to new heights. It requires diligence, thorough research, and a comprehensive understanding of your business needs and goals. By exploring the various options you can position your business to access vital funding.

Qualifying for the right loan or grant will provide the means to cultivate growth, foster innovation, and strengthen your foothold in the marketplace. The business banking tools available from Novo can help by giving you easy access to all of the financial information you need in order to provide documentation.

Novo Platform Inc. strives to provide accurate information but cannot guarantee that this content is correct, complete, or up-to-date. This page is for informational purposes only and is not financial or legal advice nor an endorsement of any third-party products or services. All products and services are presented without warranty. Novo Platform Inc. does not provide any financial or legal advice, and you should consult your own financial, legal, or tax advisors.

Novo is a fintech, not a bank. Banking services provided by Middlesex Federal Savings, F.A.: Member FDIC.

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