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Charleston LDC becomes Climb Fund, going statewide

Banking & Finance
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Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg speaks to the crowd at the Climb Fund’s July 1 press conference, where leaders announced the nonprofit’s name change and expansion. (Photo/Alexandria Ng)Charleston LDC has rebranded as the Climb Fund, expanding with $3.5 million in new grants and low-cost loans, and extending its reach across the state.

This nonprofit community development finance institution aims to create economic opportunity through lending to small businesses and affordable housing developments that cannot secure traditional financing.

Climb Fund CEO Cindi Rourk said plans were already in the works to grow the fund before the pandemic when the Small Business Administration approached them about expanding their territory to fill a greater need in the state.

Business development plans were originally scheduled to kick-off in April 2020 but were delayed.

“With these new funding opportunities, when $3.5 million falls in your lap, this is the time to let everyone know we’re advancing statewide,” Rourk said.

Charleston Pops is one of the recipients of a Climb Fund loan. This dessert and catering company started out as a pop-out tent, is now operating out of a trailer, and will soon be expecting its first brick-and-mortar location near the end of the year. (Photo/Alexandria Ng)The new $3.5 million in funding comes from a combination of three awards. These include $750,000 from Wells Fargo Bank through its Open For Business Fund, $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Intermediary Relending Program, and $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Rapid Response Program.

These funds will help small business owners, like Webb and Diana Cheshire of Charleston Pops.

The Cheshires first started their dessert and catering company in a small pop-up tent, selling their popsicles and baked goods at farmer’s markets and birthday parties. Over time, they upgraded to a mobile trailer, but with assistance from the Climb Fund, they are now expecting their first brick-and-mortar shop set to open Dec. 1.

“We were turned down by every bank for financing that we went to, and the LDC Climb Fund helped us out and actually secured us the funding through the SBA and themselves, so they were completely instrumental in helping us find the funding to do what we need to do,” Webb Cheshire said. “After three years, we finally were able to do this with all their help in gaining the funding and the knowledge and the backing to open up our first brick and mortar.”

Since 1979, Charleston LDC has lent more than 490 loans worth $24.5 million to affordable housing developments and entrepreneurs who had been denied access to capital from for-profit banks. These loans have created more than 1,100 jobs and 472 units of affordable housing. The organization has 197 active loans worth $11.3 million in six South Carolina counties, with 56% of borrowers coming from businesses owned by women, minorities or veterans.

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