Navigant, RI Hispanic Chamber offers low-interest loans to small Latin American businesses

NAVIGANT CREDIT UNION, the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Papitto Opportunity Connection announced Monday a new low-interest loan program for Latin American small business owners who may be struggling to obtain traditional bank credit. Pictured from left: Oscar Mejias, CEO of the Chamber; borrower Marjorie Ortiz, owner of Marjorie Beauty Studio; Kathleen Orovitz, CEO-elect of Navigant; John Tarantino, managing trustee for Papitto; and loan recipients Carmen Rodriguez, owner of Lunita House, and Glenda Pagan, owner of Key Treats. / COURTESY OF THE PERRY GROUP

PROVIDENCE — The state’s largest credit union has partnered with a Hispanic business services group to try to help Latin American small business owners get bank loans.

Navigant Credit Union, Rhode Island’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Papitto Opportunity Connection held an event Monday to announce the launch of the Building Bankable Business lending program. The “non-traditional” loan program provides Latin American small business owners and entrepreneurs with access to capital to start or grow their businesses and recognizes that this group often struggles to obtain traditional bank financing.

Navigant as a lender will offer loans ranging from $500 to $5,000 to eligible startups or small businesses for uses including working capital, gap financing, leasehold improvements, land and building acquisitions, debt refinancing, and equipment purchases can become.

Papitto Opportunity Connection will raise $150,000 annually for three years to serve as a guarantee for all loans approved under the program while the chamber administers the program, said Hispanic Chamber CEO Oscar Mejias.

The program also includes access to business and financial training and technical support.

Mejias emphasized that the loan program not only provides recipients with immediate capital, but also helps them establish long-term banking relationships that can later help them obtain larger loans.

“We create a credit score for this company and we create a history with a financial institution,” Mejias said.

Latino and black-owned businesses are statistically less likely to receive bank loans or have relationships with traditional financial institutions compared to white-owned businesses.

Although program leaders announced the launch on Monday, the program began informally in the spring and has already made 26 loans to small and micro businesses, Mejias said. He estimates that the program will help at least 150 companies based on the funds available.

The loans are capped at 1% interest and have a repayment period of five years. Businesses must be Latino-owned with fewer than 10 employees and less than $20,000 in annual revenue to be eligible.

For more information or to apply, contact the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 401-400-1340 or visit

Nancy Lavin is a PBN writer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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