Not long after Robyn Scotland had her first child in 2009, she discovered that day-care options for her baby were few and far between in and around Troy, NY.
Scotland, a special-education teacher, had high standards. She wanted a provider with both an environmentally friendly aesthetic and a child-rearing approach that matched her holistic early education philosophy. Rather than settle for less, she stayed home with her baby―and drew up a business plan.
A year later, she and her husband bought a bigger house with the intent of turning it into a daycare center. It was easier said than done. They had turned a profit on the sale of their first home but were short of the money needed to make commercial renovations on their new place, a historical property that was also a fixer-upper. Banks turned their applications down, but one referred them to Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, a CDFI in Albany.
Robyn was shocked: “My hopes weren’t that high because after all this rejection, I didn’t think getting a loan was something we’d be able to do.”
It was all in a day’s work for Community Loan Fund, however, which routinely makes loans to small startups. Rather than focusing solely on credit history, the fund takes a potential lender’s business plan into account and is guided in no small part by mission-driven CDFI values that aim to lift financially underserved communities.
“We wanted to support this project because it was an empty building in an urban area that needed revitalization,” said Joe Landy, senior lending officer at Community Loan Fund. “It’s also a woman-owned business, and would create jobs. It was a risk worth taking.”
The fund approved Robyn for a crucial $20,000 startup loan to open Eco Baby Daycare, built from the ground up around the core values Robyn had sought from the beginning. The project used environmentally safe insulation, flooring and paint, for instance, and the center was equipped with eco-friendly blankets, diapers, and cleaning supplies. Just as important, her daycare was tailored to follow a child-development philosophy that incorporated sign language, one-on-one care, and simple toys rather than electronic toys that tend to isolate and over-stimulate small children.
The center was a hit from the start. Today it provides day care for 18 families, and Robyn says she is grateful Community Loan Fund saw the potential.
- “They seemed to really get the idea when others didn’t,” she said. “The money was part of it but the support and advice was just as important.”