TD Bank celebrates Black History Month by honoring and amplifying the work and experiences of colleagues, customers and communities across North America who continue to "March Forward" for equality. We acknowledge the incredible achievements of the past during this incredibly important month, with an eye on forward progress and the bank's lasting mission is to support those who are creating the foundation for a better future for all. This includes colleagues making a difference within TD, customers inspiring so many outside the bank and organizations who continue to be change-makers in the communities they serve.
TD Bank knows capital access is vital to community economic development. That’s why we’re proud to work with Ascendus, a non-profit organization that is leading the way in making business funding accessible for often underserved populations, such as small business owners in the Black community and other entrepreneurs of color.
A Lender That’s Transformational, Not Transactional
As a top Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) based in New York City, Ascendus focuses on educating and funding entrepreneurs in the Black community, other people of color, and low-to-moderate income households. Since 1991, it has provided small business owners — primarily entrepreneurs of color, as well as women and immigrants — with nearly $300 million, funding more than 35,000 small businesses across the U.S.
In particular, Ascendus created a loan program specifically for Black entrepreneurs: the Get Ready Business Line of Credit. This program is designed specifically for African American small business owners to help them improve their credit and invest in their business. It provides an initial $500 line of credit that grows to $5,000 within six months. The program helps bridge the capital access gap for Black small business owners and provides one-on-one support geared towards rebuilding credit.
But Ascendus provides more than business capital. Their team members also build long-term relationships and provide financial education. They’re not facilitating loan transactions as much as they’re transforming lives. “Money is only part of the equation,” explains Juan Guzman, an Ascendus senior loan consultant. “Without knowing how to manage it and trusted advisors for guidance, a loan may not help as much as it could.”
As a former TD Bank Customer Service Representative, Store Supervisor, and Assistant Store Manager, Guzman has seen a wide variety of financial situations among aspiring small business owners. “Trust is key in these relationships,” he says. “This strong connection between TD Bank and Ascendus brightens the future for entrepreneurs, who are driving economic development in their communities.”
How TD Bank Helps Ascendus
TD Bank provides funding to support the organization’s Maine to Miami Small Business Lending and Financial Education Program, which offers affordable and flexible small business loans of up to $250,000 plus one-on-one financial counseling to entrepreneurs in 14 Eastern U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Another area where TD Bank supports Ascendus is by providing funding for their Line of Credit product, which gives cash-flow flexibility for entrepreneurs to support and grow their enterprises. This program is aimed at women-owned, low-to-moderate income, and small businesses of color. While it’s designed to provide a monthly financial cushion for those with cash-flow constraints, business owners can qualify for a line of credit up to $10,000 to help carry them through leaner times.
"The TD Ready Commitment is our global initiative to help level the playing field for those who need it most," said Shelley Sylva, TD Bank's Head of US Corporate Citizenship. "At TD, we value our partnerships with organizations such as Ascendus, because of how they help to bring equity in access to capital, financial education, and resources for underserved communities. We want Ascendus' programs that build financial growth and sustainability into their client's business models to continue to be successful. Ascendus' programs and services have assisted the elevation of small businesses and entrepreneurial journeys of people of color, which economically strengthens the communities that these businesses and people represent. This kind of impact creates opportunities and empowers small business owners in a way that is directly aligned with TD's commitment to supporting Black communities."
Innovation For Impact on Real Needs
Ascendus also has a long history as a first responder in communities of color and low-to-moderate-income communities when financial crises hit. That’s because the impact they face tends to be disproportionately greater due to having fewer financial resources. Recovery often takes longer, too.
For example, Ascendus set up funds after the September 11 tragedy and Hurricane Relief Programs in 2012 and 2017 to help minimize the negative impacts and get small business owners back on their feet. In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down businesses nationwide, Ascendus provided nearly $56 million in relief to business owners who found themselves unable to access financial resources elsewhere.
Serving Small Business Owners in the Black Community
Sandra Bojorque, who’s the Ascendus Business Development New York Team Lead, says, “We seek to help entrepreneurs in the Black community in meaningful ways. We keep our ears to the ground, creating innovative programs that are relevant to what's going on with local business owners. Our programs directly help specific demographics, neighborhoods, or industries."
She offers the example of an Ascendus program that targets self-employed daycare providers, who fill a critical need for working parents in communities of color. “Although many of these daycare centers struggle to qualify for traditional business loans, their income is often easy to assess,” she says. “They know how many kids they’ll care for each month, and we can work with that. I’m proud of what we do.”
At the core of the Ascendus mission is helping people level up their lives and those of their families, through strategic relationships, financial education, and loan capital. By partnering with Ascendus, TD Bank can support budding entrepreneurs of color who are the economic engines in their communities. With established credit, they can access business capital at better rates. “When traditional lending systems work in their favor so they can realize their dreams, that’s when the Ascendus mission is truly a success,” Sandra says.