Showing 'Good Faith' in Entrepreneurs

Located in Pine Bluff, Ark., the Good Faith Fund (GFF) is a self-employment loan fund that targets low- and moderate-income individuals who operate a microenterprise or are interested in becoming self-employed. Approximately 80 percent of the individuals assisted by GFF are women, of which about 80 percent are black.

Since its inception in 1988, GFF's primary vehicle has been a peer group lending program. After a recent evaluation of the program's effectiveness, the GFF decided it could be just as effective and obtain a higher level of administrative efficiency by shifting its focus from peer lending to credit-led lending.

As a result, GFF's staff has been able to devote more time to individualized technical assistance and post-loan counseling. To maintain the close personal ties peer group members had formed with one another, the groups continue to meet on a voluntary informal basis to network. In many cases, this is the only time the entrepreneur can afford to be away from his or her business. Even though the meetings are encouraged, they are no longer required to obtain a loan.

With its restructuring, the GFF did not totally eliminate business training from its repertoire. Under a contract with the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (Jackson, Miss.), the GFF will begin "Fast Track One" training in October for potential entrepreneurs. The nine-week training program is geared toward people on public assistance and offers a business feasibility study. Once graduates complete the course, they may move on to "Fast Track Two," which concludes with a business plan.


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