Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > Michigan Women Forward to Launch New Business Microloan Program

Michigan Women Forward to Launch New Business Microloan Program

March 17, 2023

Michigan Women Forward (MWF), a certified community development financial institution (CDFI), announces the launch of a new $10 million microbusiness loan program for women and entrepreneurs of color in Michigan. The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will lend to individuals who don’t qualify for traditional loans through banks or other financial institutions.

The business microloan program includes a $1.5 million investment from launch partner, Huntington National Bank, grant support from Ballmer Group of $1.5 million, and a $1.494 million State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) loan participation in addition to a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). An additional $2 million from other private funders will be announced later in 2023.

The SSBCI program provides federal funding to states to empower small businesses to access capital needed to invest in job-creating opportunities as the country emerges from the pandemic. The funding comes as part of the federal government’s “SSBCI 2.0” program, for which Michigan received its first round of funding in August 2022. The SSBCI funds being contributed to the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will promote entrepreneurship and democratize access to startup capital, including for those in traditionally underserved communities.

“For too long, women, veterans, and entrepreneurs of color have faced disproportionate barriers to starting and growing a successful business. It is long-past time for that to change, and that is why we are making this investment today,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. “Team Michigan, together with our community and economic partners, is making it clear that here, in Michigan, we welcome people of all backgrounds to launch their ideas and build their futures in our great state.”

MWF will manage the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund by processing applications that come through its website, along with referrals made by its banking institution partners. Launch partner Huntington National Bank will provide an additional pool of applicants through its Lift Local Business program that supports minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses.

“Providing access to capital for small businesses that impact the economy in our communities is important to Huntington. Programs like the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund are excellent resources to aid business owners who may not otherwise qualify for traditional loans through banks or other financial institutions,” said Sandy Pierce, senior executive vice president and chair of Michigan at Huntington Bank. “We are proud to work with Michigan Women Forward, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Ballmer Group to bring this new lending solution to fruition.”

The fund will provide opportunities for those who are socially and economically disadvantaged due to a lack of access to capital and credit, as well as boost the economy throughout Michigan, including cities with low-income populations to include but is not limited to Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Midland, Pontiac, Saginaw, and Ypsilanti.

“We know that systemic inequities impede access, opportunity, and outcomes in economic mobility,” said Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director of Ballmer Group Southeast Michigan. “CDFIs play a vital role in ensuring that low-cost capital is available to more communities and individuals – such as entrepreneurs of color and women – who have been locked out of traditional capital markets. We are thrilled to support this fund as part of Ballmer Group’s commitment to working with government, nonprofit, and business partners to help strengthen our communities.”

As the managing organization, MWF will have more flexibility with lending to entrepreneurs than traditional financial institutions allowing microbusinesses the same opportunity as larger companies.

“The Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will change the trajectory of a Michigan small business owner,” said Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of MWF. “This funding will build a sustainable business, generate wealth for that individual, and ultimately, impact the state’s economy and create jobs in the communities in which we live.”

Entrepreneurs will be able to apply for up to $50,000 in loans through this program. An average loan managed by MWF is $25,000, so the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund will be able to assist approximately 400 entrepreneurs. Last year, the nonprofit organization provided 91 loans for $2.6 million invested in primarily women-owned businesses.

Women and entrepreneurs of color can apply for Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund loans by visiting All applicants must submit an application form, demographic information, personal financial statements, business plan with projections and other supporting documentation for consideration. Questions about the program can be emailed to or by calling 313-962-1920.