How Community Lending and Businesses Can Support Minority-Owned Businesses

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, minority business owners faced plenty of challenges –from having limited access to capital to lacking professional networks to help them with advice.

In response to this longstanding issue, Valley Bank decided to establish a Community Lending team to work with minority business owners who haven’t had traditional banking relationships before.

The focus is on “smoothing out the bumps in the road” for business owners who need help in learning how to get funding, while giving them connections with professionals like accountants, lawyers, and business development specialists who can help them grow their businesses.

As one example of creating these types of connections, Valley Bank’s Women in Business program connects female entrepreneurs to peers in their local business community, giving them opportunities to network and collaborate. Other perks include a special Women in Business checking account, skill-building seminars, access to conference and meeting spaces, and discounts on safe deposit boxes.

For minority-owned businesses that aren’t yet ready for traditional bank funding, partnerships with community organizations and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) can provide much-needed resources to capital.

To provide more resources for our minority-owned business banking clients, we have valuable ties to organizations such as the Palm Beach County Black Business Investment Corp., which, to cite just one recent example, helped negotiate a guarantee for a $250,000 line of credit so a business could get the funds it needed.

We can also make referrals to the Florida-based National Entrepreneur Center, which since 2003 has provided coaching and training services to tens of thousands of small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits.

Valley Bank’s Community Lending team goes to great lengths to understand our business banking clients in a holistic way, not just as entries on a spreadsheet. The end goal is to set business owners on a path to more robust financing options in the future as their business expands. Part of this relationship also involves connecting business owners to service providers who can be helpful to them, from insurance, payroll and merchant services to financing sources for acquiring equipment.

Establishing and maintaining a relationship with a Community Lending banker can also bring many other benefits, such as step-by-step guidance in applying for funding from government sources like the Small Business Administration. At Valley, we helped many minority-owned businesses obtain Paycheck Protection Program funds, yet we also heard stories about how some business owners didn’t bother to apply or didn’t know how to apply because they lacked a close working relationship with a banker. Our goal is to change this situation as much as we can.

As we think of ways to help businesses in our underserved communities, remember that this effort can start by simply doing business with them. Do your shopping with them, and use them as suppliers for your company. You’ll be glad you did.

Thais R. Sullivan, based in West Palm Beach, is National Director of Community Lending for Valley Bank.

– Valley National Bank is a Member of the FDIC and Equal Opportunity Lender.

PHOTO CAPTION – Valley’s South Florida Community Lending team members. From left to right: Martine Pierre-Paul, First Vice President P & Regional Director of Community Lending; Thais R. Sullivan, Senior Vice President & National Director of Community Lending; Aquannette T. Thomas, Vice President & Business Development Officer

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.