Ted Shabecoff ’16 was selected to receive an Enrichment Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. This funding helped support a trip to the Lend for America Conference for Ted and his Germinal Fund colleague, Jason Brandner ’16. Read their story below, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about our Enrichment Grants.
This October, with the generous support of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, I made the trip down to Philadelphia to attend the 5th annual Lend for America Summit. The summit brings together student leaders from across the U.S to train, motivate, and support them in their microfinance work. Having started the Germinal Fund this summer, I relished this unique opportunity to connect with fellow MFI (microfinance institutions) student executives, and to learn about best practices in domestic microfinance.
A mechanism for financial inclusion, microfinance has empowered millions to expand their businesses and to obtain financial security. Throughout inner city America, hardworking individuals bring energy and technical expertise to their trades. Yet according to the SBA, over 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years of their opening. As I have found in my discussions with local business owners, often entrepreneurs pour their heart and soul into their product, and then become bogged down by the financial, strategic, and operational deficiencies of the business. With proper support, these men and women can realize the full potential of their businesses, while strengthening the local economy from the bottom-up. The Germinal Fund focuses on extending pro bono management consulting and small, minimal interest, loans to local business owners. Since it’s founding this summer, the Germinal Fund has made great strides towards establishing quality programs for low-income business owners in the Middletown area. The group currently consists of 15 Wesleyan students, who are engaged in a variety of pro bono projects that have them designing business plans, advising local nonprofits, spearheading marketing campaigns, and screening loan applicants.
At the Lend for America conference, Jason (Germinal Fund’s Chief Marketing Officer) and I learned about the wide variety of financial services that college students are providing to low-income communities, including free tax preparation, savings programs, and financial training classes. I was amazed and inspired by all of the innovative work being done by college students, and remain in contact with leaders from other campus MFI’s.
Wesleyan teaches students to think outside the box, and to see solutions in challenges. It is this can-do spirit that I hope to bring to Middletown business owners through the Germinal Fund. I look forward to continued collaboration with the Patricelli Center, which has already done so much to empower students to use business and finance for social change. I am grateful to have Wesleyan’s support on the initiative, and am confident that the Germinal Fund will continue to provide students with meaningful, experiential learning opportunities, while fostering a more equitable, tight-knit community for all Middletown residents.