Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative provides funding for Reading businesses
Reading-based, black-owned businesses, Abnormel Apparel, Turner Coaching, Training and Consulting, LLC and Pagoda Apparel received the first seed of funding from the Financial Lending and Innovation Collaborative (FLIC) spearheaded by Alvernia University's O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.
“The FLIC microgrant Program was developed to help early-stage entrepreneurs at one of the toughest points in their entrepreneurial journey, the beginning,” said Director of FLIC, Lizette Epps. “Through research and experience, the O’Pake Institute found that many early-stage entrepreneurs delay or halt their business activity due to lack of funding for professional fees, research and development, obtaining equipment, or even a lease of space. FLIC will help qualified entrepreneurs in these areas and allow them to find success and support as they move forward.”
Abnormel Apparel, a premium denim company and tenant at The Spark business incubator, received $5,000 for obtaining equipment. Turner Coaching, Training and Consulting, LCC is a provider of workforce and career management strategies and solutions and a Spark incubator tenant, received $1,000 to assist with professional fees. Pagoda Apparel, a full-service print shop, received $4,400 for obtaining equipment.
Funds are provided by participating financial institutions, foundations and private donors, including Community First Fund, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Kutztown SBDC, Visions Federal Credit Union, Riverfront Federal Credit Union, Barrio Alegria and Alvernia University’s (AU) O’Pake Institute, where AU funding is courtesy of The PA 30-Day Fund, Schlouch Inc., and Allan Myers, Inc. A representative from each organization comprises the founding membership of FLIC.
"We are able to do this because of the generosity of the community partners that are pitching in to make FLIC a reality,” said Alvernia Vice President of Research, Economic Development and Innovation, Dean of the College of STEAM, and O’Pake COO, Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr. “This launch is truly a celebration of synergistic community efforts that are allowing us to have direct involvement in boosting economic development in Berks County.”
Early-stage funding candidates enter The O’Pake Insitute’s Spark business incubator client services intake process, which includes a feasibility analysis and needs assessment to determine funding eligibility. Established businesses can also apply for funding if a specific need is identified.
Once a business is funded, services through the Spark incubator network become available. Services include business planning, technology transfer, social media marketing, branding, and digital and traditional marketing and website development. Funded businesses are also required to match funding dollars or match goods and services to the community.
Alvernia students in the Fellows Program gain experiential learning through FLIC and their participation in the O’Pake Finance Committee. The committee works with FLIC to produce financial statements, foster financial literacy and develop business plans for entrepreneurs while preparing them to become clients at The Spark business incubator to gain extended entrepreneurial resources.