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Why Epicenter Is Launching A $15M Small Business Loan Fund in Memphis

By Leslie Lynn Smith, President & CEO, Epicenter

Pathway Lending and three private banks are key partners in the fund for minority- and women-owned businesses

As the entrepreneurship hub in Memphis, we wake up every day focused on the health and well-being of the system of support that helps local entrepreneurs successfully launch and grow their businesses. Collectively with our network partners, we pilot solutions to fill known gaps in this system, scale programs and initiatives to serve an expanding number of entrepreneurs, and remove barriers to entry that undermine full community participation. A robust and functioning system provides access to the people, customers, and capital its entrepreneurs need, and in Memphis, we’ve seen growing demand for capital that is appropriately termed and priced to move our local businesses forward.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Nashville-based Pathway Lending, a regional nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), to launch the Memphis Small Business Opportunity Loan Fund, a $15 million fund intended to improve access to capital, particularly for minority- and women-owned businesses. Initial capitalization of the fund is being provided by Pinnacle Financial Partners, First Tennessee, and Regions Bank.

This is a new initiative within Epicenter’s “capital stack” concept, which prioritizes access to a variety of capital types – from angel investment, to bank debt and equity – all designed to help entrepreneurs scale no matter their stage of business.

Pathway Lending, with a new Memphis office housed at Epicenter, is administering the fund, which will provide businesses in the Memphis region that may not yet qualify for a conventional bank business loan with access to loans ranging from $5,000 to $1,000,000 to support growth opportunities. Pathway Lending is a natural partner to our organization, as we’re both dedicated to growing the economy and building wealth in underserved communities.

In addition, business-building services and support will be provided by Pathway and Epicenter’s local network of entrepreneurial partners, who will continue to serve the local portfolio and connect their clients to this funding opportunity.

We can’t wait to tell the stories of local entrepreneurs who grow their business because of this new funding partnership.

Want to learn more? Attend the June 25 and 27 info sessions in Memphis; RSVP today.


Leslie Lynn Smith is a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and business development leader. She joined Epicenter in 2015 as its first president and CEO, after five years of entrepreneurial ecosystem development at TechTown, Detroit’s premier business incubator and accelerator. Under her leadership TechTown created new urban economic development programs, expanded tech-based company creation and launched robust regional entrepreneurship collaborations. 

We’re proud to have Leslie at the helm of Memphis’s startup ecosystem. Find her @EpicenterLeslie on Twitter.


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Did you know? If you’re an angel investor in Tennessee, you may be eligible for up to $50,000 in Angel Tax Credit. Startups raising capital, get pre-approved for this incentive today so your investors may get the tax credit.

Learn more about the Angel Tax Credit.

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