Two organizations are collaborating on locally focused crowd-funding program to help small businesses across the state access capital for expansion.
The Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a Harrisburg-based nonprofit, and Honeycomb Credit, a Pittsburgh-based firm that offers an online crowd-financing platform, are hoping to fill what they see as a void in loans for small-business owners.
The downtown center provides technical assistance, educational services and guidance to help communities revitalize their central business districts.
Under its collaboration with Honeycomb, center members – such as downtown development groups – can take part in Honeycomb’s Main Street Champion program, which unlocks capital for local businesses, said George Cook, CEO and founder of Honeycomb Credit.
So far about 20 Pennsylvania communities have signed up to participate, Cook said. They include Main Street Ridgway in Elk County, Downtown Chambersburg in Franklin County, Downtown Carlisle Association in Cumberland County and Neighborworks Northeastern PA in Scranton, Lackawanna County.
Participants in the Champion program can offer discounts to businesses working with Honeycomb.
Using Honeycomb’s platform, independent business owners can borrow funds from their customers, referred to as investors, Cook said. The goal is to motivate people to invest in small businesses.
Honeycomb’s primary revenue stream is a $250 posting fee that covers the firm’s underwriting expenses and a one-time 6 percent to 8 percent loan origination fee, based on how much a company raises. As an example, if a small business raises $50,000, 6 percent would go to Honeycomb Credit, Cook said.
Additionally, Honeycomb charges a 2.85 percent investment fee capped at $37.25 per investor, according to its online portal.
All the principal and interest accumulated on the loan goes back to the investors, Cook added.
Investors must be 18 or older. The minimum investment is $100, while businesses can borrow up to $100,000.
Businesses that want to open or expand in places like Easton often make their first stop at a city’s Main Street organization, said Kim Kmetz, a manager for Easton’s Main Street Initiative.
“They will talk to me about how to get started,” Kmetz said. “Financing, that’s often the stumbling block. Many times, that is really the stumbling block. We have so many creatives; we have a lot of food incubator programs. I think a program like this would be successful in Easton.”
Kmetz is reviewing the program with the Greater Easton Development Partnership, the nonprofit that oversees the Easton Main Street Initiative.
Honeycomb also operates in New York and Ohio.