Q: Tell me about your journey to ProsperUS.
A: I was familiar with ProsperUS because I worked at the Southwest Detroit Business Association in Southwest Detroit. The job posting stood out to me because I had [previously] worked with small business owners. At the SDBA I was doing non-lending related [work], like providing technical assistance. I was intrigued by ProsperUS, and I had no experience in banking, finance, lending, or anything similar, but I was really eager to learn the lending process. I applied for the job, and after a few rounds of interviews they offered me the position and I took it.
Q: Did you always want to work with small business? Did you have goals to do this type of work for your whole life?
A: Yes and no. [I took a] a roundabout career path to get here. I went to the University of Detroit Mercy for their community development program, so I was always interested in being active in revitalizing communities. I think this is a way of achieving that. I never thought I was going to be making loans to entrepreneurs, but I thought I was going to [follow up with] community development. I was originally interested in urban planning and studies, and that’s what I went to school for originally, it’s all related.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment at ProsperUS?
A: I think any time that we successfully make loans to entrepreneurs who really believe that they wouldn’t have had access to capital otherwise, it’s a pretty proud accomplishment. But there’s a difference between transactional success and real business growth. Having a borrower take money and pay us back without return on the investment is fine, but it’s more important to me that the money has a real effect in growing a business in creating jobs, activating storefronts, etc. There are instances where a borrower will take money and their business doesn’t succeed, but they still pay you back and that’s not a real success.
Q: How would you describe social entrepreneurship?
A: I would describe social entrepreneurship as businesses that are a hybrid between understanding the value of generating revenue to position themselves in a sustainable way and also have a mission that’s much more important than just making money, [like] giving back in some fashion. We financed two or three social entrepreneurs who’ve felt the need to give back to the community.
Q: Do you feel like what you’re doing is close to social entrepreneurship?
A: It is. We’re not a bank, we’re not trying to make money, we charge interest because it’s part of the process. We’ve developed the program to take an enormous amount of risk on entrepreneurs, [in order to] provide the tools and resources that are necessary for small businesses to make an impact in the community. It’s not just about making money for the business, it’s about improving the business acumen, finances, families, and helping the community in ways that they don’t know they need.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A: To be perfectly honest: right here. I love my job and I’m very comfortable in it. I have an enormous about of projects outside of work that I like pursuing. I have a business, and I’m rehabbing a house in the West Village. I like the position I’m in now because it lets me balance a really solid career I enjoy: this job allows me the time and flexibility to do those things.