Civic Impact Loan Fund Awards $265,000 To Five Atlanta Changemakers

ATLANTA -- October 21, 2020 -- Five Atlanta civic-minded social ventures including Learning in Color, The LIFE School, HYPE, Small Bites Adventure Club, and Elevating Equity were awarded a total of $265,000 as they seek to scale their businesses and expand their impact in the communities they serve.

These investments mark the fourth round of flexible, zero-percent interest loans through the Civic Impact Loan Fund created by Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI) and the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI), in partnership with the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation and Invest Atlanta. 

The Civic Impact Loan Fund was established to intentionally invest in Atlanta-based civic ventures led by underrepresented founders who are creating impact in the city through their work. Since launching in 2017, this Fund has invested $720,000 into 16 early-stage businesses in many different impact areas, including community development, the arts, wellness, and education.

“Supporting civic-minded businesses is imperative when growing Atlanta as a greater city for all,” said Stephen McRae, President of AEMI. “We applaud these entrepreneurs for their commitment to create equity and opportunity for their community and future generations of Atlantans.”

Over the past five years, the Fund has made an explicit commitment to investing in women, and specifically, Black women founders. These efforts directly align with the mission of the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, which launched in 2006, to support and empower women through education, entrepreneurship, and the arts.

“We’re not just investing in businesses; we’re investing in dreamers, innovators and problem solvers,” said Sara Blakely, Founder and CEO of Spanx and the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation. “It’s been my purpose in life to elevate women, because when you give a woman the chance to fulfill her full potential, magic happens.”

All five entrepreneurs are recent graduates of CCI’s Fellowship program, an intensive leadership, business development, and coaching program for civic entrepreneurs in the greater Atlanta-area, which is funded by the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation.

“Now, more than ever, Atlanta must take a bet on the people who are, and have been, doing the work,” said Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Civic Innovation. “This Fund’s recipients look like Atlanta. They are selfless civic leaders in this city that represent the best of us. We are showing what it looks like when you take a real bet on women leaders--especially Black women. To be a part of their journey to create even more impact is an honor. We are grateful to have partners who understand that.” 

Invest Atlanta provides loan servicing and back office support for the Fund. CCI leads hands-on training, underwriting, and support for the entrepreneurs applying for capital investments.  


The 2020 recipients are:

  • Carol Bowman | Learning in Color builds literacy-rich and economically-empowered communities through color consultation, interior design, interior painting and custom mural artwork in K-12 schools and other educational facilities.

  • Mikala Streeter | The LIFE School equips teens to discover and pursue their interests and goals through their accredited, nonprofit high school and summer programs. The LIFE School currently serves 40 students and graduated its first senior class this year.

  • Kristina Smith-Newton | HYPE creates a pipeline into technology and computer science-related fields for girls of color. Hype has impacted 200 students through its after-school programs and field trips while supporting graduates of the program with mentorship and internship opportunities.

  • Erin Croom | Small Bites Adventure Club helps children ages 4-18 discover, love, and eat fruits and vegetables. Their nutrition education subscription kit for families, schools, after-school programs, and early care/preschool programs feature fresh, locally grown ingredients, "I tried it" stickers, hand-outs, and videos.

  • Rachel Willis | Elevating Equity supports leaders in creating anti-racist environments by designing and facilitating half-day, 1-day, and 2-day trainings that allow leaders to reflect on their personal history with race and its systemic impact both personally and professionally. 


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Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI)

AEMI is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Entity created by Invest Atlanta in 2006 that specializes in providing gap financing for projects that create jobs and revitalize Atlanta’s distressed neighborhoods. In 2016, the AEMI board of directors approved the allocation of $100,000 to finance a pilot revolving loan fund for social entrepreneurship in Atlanta.

Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation

Since its inception in 2006, the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has donated millions to charities around the world, focusing on charities that empower underserved women and girls. In 2013, Sara Blakely became the first self-made, female billionaire to sign the Melinda and Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half her wealth to charity. While many of the world’s resources are being depleted, one is waiting to be unleashed: Women. The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation is on a mission to support women and help them SOAR through education, entrepreneurship and the arts.

Center for Civic Innovation (CCI)

The Center for Civic Innovation invests in outcome-driven and community-led ideas that create systems-level change. Launched in 2014, the focus of the Center for Civic Innovation remains to lead community-wide conversations on issues of inequality, to invest in entrepreneurial ideas in the social sector, and to strengthen civic engagement so people’s voices and ideas remain at the center of public decision-making. Over the past 2.5 years, they’ve invested over $1.5M of new capital into 69 entrepreneurial, community-led ideas.

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