Durham Small Business Recovery Fund

Duke University — Goal 2 Initiative Durham Small Business Recovery Fund

With 85% of surveyed local businesses reporting revenue loss during the first month of the pandemic, Duke partnered with the city and county to provide support to small businesses through the establishment of the Durham Small Business Recovery Fund. This support was based on discussion with local leaders and business owners about the impact of business closures on the economy and workforce. The Durham Small Business Recovery Fund provides both grants and loans, as well as technical assistance, to local businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. The program reached $3 million (with $1 million from Duke University for grants and approximately $2 million from the City of Durham and Durham County) and is administered through a partnership with the Carolina Small Business Development Fund.

Eligible businesses included those that were locally owned and independently operated within the city limits with fewer than 25 employees, including home-based businesses and food trucks. Businesses with revenue less than $500K annually could apply for grants up to $10K; businesses with annual revenue of more than $500K were eligible exclusively for loans ranging between $5K-$35K with a 3% interest rate and repayment terms up to 10 years.  

Initiative Differentiators

Duke has approximately 40,000 employees including nearly 10% that work within downtown Durham. As an anchor institution, Duke faculty, staff, and students are key customers to Durham retailers and service providers, and Duke contracts for services with many area businesses. With significant projects on pause and with many of Duke's employees working remotely and some students studying from their home locations during the pandemic, it was particularly important to ensure that these small businesses could sustain. 

Key Interventions and Milestones

The initiative provides grants, loans, and technical assistance to eligible businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Durham Small Business Recovery Program began accepting applications on June 18, 2020. Funds available for grants were exhausted by January 2021; funds for loans are still available.  

The loan program expanded to allow businesses with revenues up to $5 million to apply (the initial revenue max was $2 million) and up to 50 full-time employees (the initial employee maximum was 25). The City and County are considering adjustments to expand the eligible pool of applicants and make the program more available and marketable to small business owners in Durham. 

Expected Impact

The program was successful in expanding access to capital for minority and women-owned businesses. As a result, program partners are seeking to continue and expand the program to ensure even greater utilization by local businesses. 

The Grant Program received 281 applications; 51% were eligible and approved for funding. A total of $1M in grant funding was awarded, with an average grant size of $7K. Minority and woman-owned businesses represented half of the approvals. The Loan Program received 76 applications received; 39% were eligible and approved for a loan. A total of $647K in loan funds awarded, with average loan size of $20K. Minority and woman-owned businesses represented more than half of the approvals.