CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Fifth Third Bank wants to help small businesses succeed. Kala Gibson is Head of Fifth Third’s Business Banking. He was in town at Black Enterprise 2019 Leadership Conference in Charlotte telling people not to give up on their dream of owning a small business. He participated in a workshop entitled “Get Your Piece of the Billion-Dollar pie.”
“My ultimate goal is to make sure every entrepreneur who has a dream to open up a business can do that," Gibson said. "I never want the bank or access to capital or access to information to be a deterrent for individuals.”
Gibson says there is a special financial program in Cincinnati, Detroit and Chicago that is geared to give businesses a chance. He says it is the goal of the bank to bring that program to Charlotte.
“I think Charlotte is ready,” Gibson said. “There is so much opportunity here.”
While that special program is not in Charlotte yet, Fifth Third Bank can still assist. Gibson says when it comes to small businesses the bank approves about 60% of the loans.
“We have numerous opportunities where we’ve said no,” Gibson said. “And we’re able to take those businesses and actually refer them over to one of the funds that we are invested in and be able to change lives.”
The banker says the challenge to change more lives is getting other banks to take a chance on small businesses.
“We need more collaboration,” Gibson said. “We need more banks to kind of jump into this effort around investing in these opportunities and providing access to capital.”
Dalton Espaillant is CEO of Sabor Latin Street Grill. His business is about six years old. The CEO says Fifth Third Bank took a chance on him.
“They were the first bank that gave me some real finance,” Espaillant said. “Financial money to grow the company.”
Espaillant says that loan allowed him to open four more restaurants. That caused him to hire more employees. He has about 250 people on the payroll. He says the loan made the expansion and success of his business happen sooner and created less stress for his family.
“It made it a lot easier,” Espaillant said. “Now my wife can go grocery shopping without the card getting declined.”
For the past three years, Fifth Third Bank has given 2,590 small business loans totaling $243.6 million. Gibson says making these loans a reality makes the difference.
“When we go across our communities,” Gibson said. “And we see the income disparities and we see that path wealth creation - entrepreneurship is the way. Entrepreneurship has allowed folks to actually grow their business and give back to their communities.”
The banker realizes there are challenges and business owners may feel shut out of the process for various reasons including not having the contacts to lacking the confidence. Gibson gives this advice.
“I think folks have to be willing to be disruptive,” Gibson said. “And show up and say I am here and I want the piece of the pie as well.”