Live Oak Bank is preparing to open an inclusive small business center in downtown Wilmington, envisioned as a resource hub for underserved small businesses, a bank official said Tuesday.
Live Oak has entered into a lease for the center to be housed in about 5,000 square feet at 106 Market St., above chef Dean Neff’s new restaurant, Seabird. The building belongs to Raleigh developer James Goodnight, who has overhauled several historical structures in downtown Wilmington.
The Live Oak center will be led by Live Oak employees Chakema Clinton-Quintana (pictured at right), inclusive small business manager, and Jamar Jenkins (pictured below), inclusive small business specialist.
“This is the first step … hopefully we can grow it,” said Huntley Garriott, president of Live Oak Bank, on Tuesday morning. “We’ve been talking a lot with the local partners that are already working with small businesses, whether that’s Genesis Block, Kairos Center, the work StepUp is doing on workforce development.
“There’s a couple of CDFIs [Community Development Financial Institutions] that we’ve been talking to, and we’d love to have a collaborative space for folks that are really working to support small businesses.”
The center could help provide various capital solutions, “which could be microloans, SBA loans; there’s various grant programs,” Garriott said.
A focus of the center would be to overlay “access to capital with the various resources that are available for underserved small businesses,” he added.
Possible examples of resources Live Oak itself could provide to small businesses using the center include training sessions on how to write a business plan, how to utilize social media (from the bank’s marketing team) and lenders talking specifically about getting ready to work on a loan application.
Garriott said Live Oak officials hope to open the center by this fall. After that, the idea could expand to other markets.
The local center will “clearly focus here on Wilmington, on supporting the community here,” Garriott said, “but if we can create a model that’s scalable, we’d love to see that take off as well.”