Raquel Ramirez opened the Lunchbox restaurant downtown more than two years ago, and now she's ready to open a second location.
Her restaurant serves breakfast and lunch weekdays from its first-floor spot in the High Touch building at 110 S. Main. It also offers catering.
Most days, Ramirez is the restaurant's only cook, server and cashier. But with plans for a second location — she signed a lease on a building at 11th and Bitting in the Riverside neighborhood recently — she'll need more help.
Ramirez could be among the first to receive a low-interest loan from a new fund aimed at helping local small businesses grow. The Create Capital Fund, launched with a $25,000 grant from Fidelity Bank's new Bravely Onward Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation, aims to provide loans of between $2,500 and $25,000 specifically to minority owned businesses.
"It means a lot," she said of the Create fund. "There's so much I could do that I can't do without it."
The Create fund will be administered by the Create Campaign, a nonprofit that provides services and support to minority entrepreneurs in Wichita and Kansas City.
Create Campaign president Christina Long said the fund is also intended to provide micro loans to minority entrepreneurs who might not otherwise have access to or qualify for a traditional bank loan.
"The money is geared toward equipment, inventory, things that to some entrepreneurs . . . can really make a difference, help propel their growth more quickly," Long said.
Ashlee Mclaurin is one of those entrepreneurs. The owner of Simply Beautiful Hair Salon at 3971 N. Woodlawn Court in Bel Aire, Mclaurin has applied for a Create micro loan to renovate her shop and to acquire additional training that she said will give her salon a competitive edge — and more customers. She said she doesn't currently qualify for a traditional bank loan.
"There's just not very many avenues for African American business owners (for financing)," Mclaurin said. "This means a great deal."
Long said the Create fund will make loans offering 7 percent interest on terms as long as 48 months. Interest from the loans will be used to help grow the fund, as will additional grants. The goal is to grow the fund to $250,0000. Long said the organization is in the process of finalizing other contributions to the Create fund that the Bravely Onward Fund will match, up to $100,000.
The $500,000 Bravely Onward Fund was announced last month as part of $1 million in community investment announced by Fidelity in early April. The aim of the Bravely Onward Fund is to provide grants to nonprofits with programs that serve entrepreneurs, such as the Create Campaign.
The other half of the $1 million donation will go to the Fidelity Bank Foundation, which will use it to support arts, education, human services and nonprofits with missions are to improve the community.
Fidelity Bank president Aaron Bastian said the decision to create the Bravely Onward Fund was largely a matter of timing.
"We've seen a lot of momentum building across the city, the region, and one area I think we can grow even faster is our entrepreneurial community," Bastian said. "I just felt like this is time, given all the positive things going on, to really put a serious amount of money behind this effort."