Urban Land Conservancy celebrates the achievements of our partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities in Metro Denver. ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight is awarded to partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Metro Denver residents through our real estate investments and community assets.

Congratulations to our March 2022 Partner Spotlight of the Month: CEDS Finance! 

Immigrating to America is often coupled with the promise of opportunity. But how do you start a small business when you don’t have any credit or practice the Islamic faith and require Murabahah? Sharing in the American Dream is not as simple it once was. 

Established in 2009, CEDS Finance supports the American Dream of financial self-sufficiency by assisting immigrants, refugees, and those from underserved communities to start, grow, or strengthen their small businesses in Metro Denver. CEDS Finance is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Small Business Administration (SBA) Intermediary Lender that provides business loans and support services to underserved business owners across Metro Denver. They break barriers for those marginalized from the traditional financial system and empower them by providing access to financial services for thriving businesses, families, and communities.

CEDS Finance’s model is unique in many ways. It combines character-based underwriting with technical business assistance to ensure its clients are set up for success. Its investment officers get to know each client, building trust and resiliency as loans and payment terms are customized to each individual’s needs. In addition, CEDS Finance is the only lender in Colorado that provides Islamic-compliant financing—Murabahah—which means a financing structure where no interest is charged.  

“We like to think of ourselves as economic first responders,” said Brittany Smith, CEDS Finance Communication Officer. “We’ve provided over $6.5 million in financing and had over 300 borrowers from 34 different countries of origin.” 

Smith says Corinthiah Brown’s journey with CEDS Finance is one of her favorite success stories. After some personal experience with the criminal justice system and substance abuse, Corinthian Brown founded The Don’t Look Back Center (TDLBC) in 2018 with a loan provided by CEDS Finance. TDLBC serves socially and economically disadvantaged women and transwomen of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to obtain safety, restoration, leadership, courage, tenacity, and health. Brown provides a safe space for those working to overcome barriers to recovery and has become an invaluable resource for the Colorado community. With CEDS Finance’s initial investment, Brown has grown her Center and applied for more traditional, lower-interest financing through other banks.  

“One of the most important aspects of our work is not only providing the initial financing people need to start businesses but giving them the tools and resources they need to graduate from CEDS Finance and into more traditional financing,” said Smith. “Our goal is not to retain our clients, because that means they have been successful!” 

When CEDS Finance was searching for new office space, they knew they wanted to stay in Aurora, close to most clientele. ULC was lucky enough to contact CEDS Finance and offer them a place at our new site, COLFAXLAB for social good, at the former Citywide Banks Building. 

“We’re excited to have more space, especially because we’re going to dedicate a few rooms to people filling out their applications,” said Smith. “We plan to have computers and be onsite, so they can ask questions in real-time. There’s also a space we will use for training to continue coaching our clients on various business goals.” 

As CEDS Finance continues to grow, Smith shared that they hope to expand the maximum cap on their small business credit builder loans, trucking loans, and traditional small business loans. As the world gets more expensive, CEDS Finance wants to ensure they are keeping up with demand. 

“We also hope to expand our training so we can provide even more all-around support for our client’s business dreams,” said Smith. 

To learn more about CEDS Finance or make a donation, please visit their website here.