Meda, the growing counselor and lender to small minority-owned businesses, is launching a $1 million Shark Tank-style competition.
Meda (Metropolitan Economic Development Association) will host a national business-plan competition modeled on the popular business TV show.
The “Million Dollar Challenge for Minority Entrepreneurs” is being developed with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.
It will occur during Twin Cities Startup Week, Oct. 8-14, an entrepreneur-laden week that includes the finals of the Minnesota Cup sweepstakes.
The Meda competition will include a speed-pitching event, educational opportunities, a business accelerator and four finalist awards, including a $1 million investment in the four businesses. A $1 million grant from Next Fund for Innovation will provide partial funding for the competition and awards. Next Fund is the pilot program of a Philadelphia-based, national organization of community-development financial institutions.
“Meda has a wonderful legacy of creating economic opportunities for people of color,” Carter said. “This competition is a bold way to empower aspiring minority entrepreneurs, who will have means to create more living-wage jobs … and help improve quality of life for many.”
Meda, under CEO Gary Cunningham since 2014, has grown its loan portfolio from $5 million to nearly $20 million.
“We’re at about $18 million and on our way to $20 million. ... We want to go to $50 million,” said Cunningham earlier this year. “We’ve got $22 million in loans in the pipeline, already vetted. The demand is increasing.”
Minorities and immigrants have been the fastest-growing component of a workforce marked by predominantly white baby boomer retirements. Similarly, minority small businesses are growing. But minority entrepreneurs disproportionately are hampered by too little capital.
Meda is backed by foundations, financial institutions and others who invest to help fledgling minority businesses receive the counseling and capital they need to get up to speed and “bankable” by traditional lenders.
Meda often partners with larger banks on SBA loans. Its loan-portfolio performance rivals that of well-run community banks. The 47-year-old organization will soon move from downtown to expanded space in the new Thor Cos. headquarters and business accelerator in north Minneapolis
Veteran small-business woman Gloria Freeman was named Meda’s entrepreneur of the year this week at its annual meeting.
Freeman, who lost a corporate job years ago, used Meda and a variety of financial sources to start Olu’s Home, residences for the elderly and people with developmental disabilities or mental illness. Several years ago, she also launched Olu’s Beginnings, a child-development center in a renovated, once-vacant building on the North Side.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144