Last week, Amazon announced its latest lending program for sellers on the platform, a new partnership with Black-led Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Lendistry targeting Black, Latino and underrepresented sellers. While the company does not collect racial demographic data on sellers, it is confident the lending program will benefit a number of Amazon small business sellers.
“We’re providing the opportunity for those who may not meet other [lending] criteria or may choose a more community-focused style of lending,” Brandi Neloms, an Amazon Small Business communications representative, told The Plug.
Amazon and third-party lenders have has provided over $800 million in loans since it began offering financing to sellers in 2011. The Lendistry partnership through Amazon community lending is the first pairing with a CDFI to specifically provide historically underserved business owners with lending options, the company’s foray into this space, according to Neloms.
CDFIs were created through the Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994 as a way to boost economic opportunity for financially distressed communities.
“I grew up with the story of ‘what if’,” Everett Sands, CEO of Lendistry told The Plug. “My grandfather built a tailoring apprentice trade school and was the first African American to have a contract with the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, like a lot of people in underserved communities, he needed access to capital and wasn’t able to get it, so I thought, ‘what if he had access to responsible capital and a chance?’.”
Sands has since created a chance for nearly 500,000 small businesses by facilitating and lending $7.3 billion in loans and grants since launching the company in 2015.
Lendistry, based in the city of Brea in California, is one of a thousand CDFIs throughout the U.S. and one of two Amazon lending partners (the other includes Goldman Sachs’ Marcus.)
Sellers who qualify for Lendistry loans will be able to borrow from $10,000 to $100,000 at interest rates that range from 8 to 9.9 percent. There is also a 2 percent loan origination fee for borrowers.
“I grew up mentored by leaders in African American banks and, they were very focused on how we build wealth in our community and the for-profit business structure,” Sands said.
Prior to founding Lendistry, Sands served as an associate vice president of community lending at Wells Fargo and as the first African American MCB Real Estate board member, a Maryland-based commercial real estate investment firm.
Amazon said the Lendistry partnership is a pilot program under which they hope to initially originate $10 million in loans. Beyond the first $10 million, the two companies will take learnings from the program to develop the next phase of the partnership.
“The end goal here for Amazon is to put sellers in a better position to run their business,” Neloms said. “If sellers are able to increase inventory, or prepare for the upcoming holiday season peak, if they’re able to meet their business needs through their partnership with Amazon—on and off Amazon—as their business grows, that’s what we’re investing in.”