Small businesses in Charlotte could walk away with zero-interest loans through this program.

Withco — which helps empower small businesses to succeed through its network of resources — has launched a new partnership program. That venture, called Risewithco, will offer up to 50 Charlotte-area small businesses a two-year, zero-interest loan. Loans will be valued between $2,000 and $20,000. 

“We’re trying as hard as we can and working as fast as we can to do some good,” says Kevin Song, founder and CEO of withco, based in Charlotte and New York City.

The company has earmarked $150,000 of its own capital to fund that program. It hopes that commitment will spur outside support from local government or big businesses in the Queen City — especially since the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program has fallen short, Song says.

“It’s sort of a bigger call to action,” he says. “Covid was just this thing that came out of left field and for no reason of their own, (small businesses) were stuck in a life-and-death situation.”

Applications will be accepted through May 10, with funds being disbursed by June 1. Companies will be selected based on factors including operating performance, business potential and importance to the community or Charlotte.

Seven businesses have already been selected for the program: The Common Market, Legion Brewing, Moxie Mercantile, Not Just Coffee, Hilliard Studio Method, Stomp Chomp & Roll and Undercurrent Coffee.

In addition to funding, businesses also will benefit from ongoing services designed to increase profitability, growth and resiliency. That includes one-on-one access to withco’s team and a network of small business, finance, public relations and real estate professionals.

“For the right businesses, our thinking is this is really the time to reimagine what the future will be,” Song says.

Song launched withco in early 2019, targeting Charlotte because of its growth potential. There’s a natural-born tension tied to economic growth and its impact on community and neighborhoods. Withco is focused on the small business and enhancing growth profitability and expansion opportunities.

“We want Charlotte to be this shining beacon of something that happened the right way,” Song says.

The company’s focus is personal for Song. He grew up in Brooklyn, and his parents operated a small grocery store. That business was displaced when the rent doubled.

“The entire world I knew as an 11-year-old disappeared overnight, which is the real inspiration for the company,” he says.

original article via Charlotte Business Journal