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Tika Acharya built his business with the help of the microloan fund. Courtesy photo.




Funding immigrant businesses
New microloan program assists NH’s new Americans

06/14/18



 The state’s first microloan program focused on helping first-generation immigrant business owners has launched, offering 24- to 36-month microloans from $5,000 to $50,000 for working capital, renovations or purchasing inventory and equipment, with interest rates starting at 7 percent. 

Program participants will receive technical assistance from the Regional Economic Development Center in Raymond, which launched the New Americans Loan Fund. The assistance is intended to prepare business owners to eventually qualify for financing through a bank, including advice for accounting and bookkeeping, website management and marketing. 
“This program allows us to support new job opportunities in the state while also mitigating the challenges facing new American business owners,” REDC President Laurel Adams said. “Attracting new Americans and keeping them in New Hampshire can increase the state’s diversity, grow our economy and help combat our state’s labor shortage.”
The loan fund is an extension of a pilot program first developed in 2016 by REDC and the Welcoming Concord Initiative. REDC is currently working with five immigrant-owned businesses and hopes to grant six to eight additional loans in the loan fund’s first year as a statewide program. 
The hope is to grow the New Americans Loan Fund into a $2 million fund through a combination of business and personal donations, along with government resources. By mid-June, REDC expects to receive approval to participate in the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority’s tax credit program, which offers New Hampshire businesses a 75 percent state tax credit against a donation made to any approved project.
 
Launching a business
Tika Acharya was the first new American to partner with REDC to take advantage of what would eventually become the New American Loan Fund. Born in Bhutan, Acharya spent 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before eventually earning a business degree in India and working in various professional fields, including insurance. Acharya began working in New Hampshire in 2009 after the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement placed him and his family in the Granite State.
After working for MetLife and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Acharya decided to start the process of opening his own business. But he found it difficult to integrate into a new business culture. While he and his family were able to self-fund a grocery business venture back in 2015, Acharya ran into financing issues commonly faced by immigrant entrepreneurs, namely a lack of business or accounting history to secure a bank loan. 
Business owners like Acharya often seek out microloans for this reason, and he said both the funding and technical assistance he received were essential for helping him launch AS Insurance in Manchester. Since launching in early 2017, AS Insurance has grown to cover about 1,000 clients and has five offices in New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“REDC was helpful for more than just lending,” said Acharya, who is also principal of AS Insurance. “The REDC staff helped us build a solid business plan, something I hadn’t been able to pull together as well in the past.”
Acharya added that the loan fund also helped him become a part of the community.
“Our staff is bilingual and bicultural, so we are filling a vital need in the community by helping those with language barriers or who come from different backgrounds,” Acharya said. “[This loan program] can help other first-generation immigrants start a business with training and funding, so they too can put down roots and contribute to the community.” 





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