Black Pearl Global Investments, a Charlotte-based venture capital firm, announced plans Tuesday to launch a lending arm focused on making microloans to small, Black-owned businesses.
Black Pearl CEO Shante Williams said the move is meant to provide capital — up to $100,000 — to assist Charlotte startups that traditional lenders often ignore.
Rather than making loans based primarily on credit scores, Black Pearl will use “proprietary metrics and algorithms” to gauge lending risks, the company said in a statement.
In an interview with QCity Metro, Williams said Black Pearl’s lending portfolio will include “overlooked segments,” such as new businesses and businesses run by people previously incarcerated.
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“We think that businesses should be evaluated on what they’re doing, not on what the individual did,” she said.
The company also will make loans to businesses operating in what Williams described as “vice industries” — those that make and sell alcohol and CBD products.
A foundation rooted in health equity
Founded in 2018, Black Pearl has focused on investing in startup working to reduce health disparities across the globe. Its expansion into microlending will represent a new move for Williams, who also chairs the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce.
In its announcement Tuesday, the company listed its investment portfolio at $25 million.
Williams said money for the microloans will come from fundraising, Black Pearl’s partners and a collaboration with the IKEA U.S. Community Foundation, which has a Black business initiative. US Bank also committed funding to support participating businesses, according to a Black Pearl press release.
Williams said Black Pearl plans to lend at least $250,000 over the next quarter and $1 million over the next year.
‘Economic freedom for Black businesses’
The company will officially launch its lending arm at a event scheduled for Tuesday, June 20, the day after the nation marks its second Juneteenth federal holiday. During that event, held at 1501 South Mint, a Black-owned lounge in Charlotte’s Wilmore neighborhood, Black Pearl will announce its first microloans — $25,000 to five Black-owned businesses.
“Every vendor that’s coming forth in this event is a Black vendor, and for us, that is powerful. That is amazing,” Williams said. “I want people to be at this event and know that there is capital in the community.”
Williams said she chose to hold the event in close proximity to Juneteenth in order to symbolize “economic freedom to Black businesses.”
Williams said she wants to make the event — which she named Going Beyond Access” — an annual gathering. The name, she said, stems from how Black-owned businesses often struggle to access capital. Indeed, a 2021 report found that Black-owned businesses are among those least likely to receive loans.
The kickoff event is sold out, but Black Pearl is taking registrations for a waitlist.