At a Glance
The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation offers strategic start up and/or growth business loans to qualified Upper Manhattan businesses through its Business Resource and Investment Service Center, Inc. (BRISC). BRISC offers Lines of Credit between $25,000 and $100,000 and Term Loans between $50,000 and $250,000. These loans are aimed at small business formation and/or expansion to create economic vitality for Upper Manhattan. Term Loans typically are senior financing, depending on the other sources of capital for the project, and are set at an affordable rate, with flexible terms based on the cash flows, job generation, and level of collateral for the project.
Banner photo by Rosemary Santos
We offer loans to qualified existing and start-up businesses in Upper Manhattan. Unlike traditional bank lenders or the SBA, we generally do not focus solely on credit scores or require two years of operating results. We seek projects that generally meet the following criteria:
Businesses that are located, or will expand, within Upper Manhattan
Offer valued products or services that are non-existent/scarce in Upper Manhattan
Support anchor projects funded by UMEZ
Businesses with experienced management teams
Businesses that are sustainable and generate positive cash flow
Projects with meaningful equity capital investment from their owner(s)
BRISC TERM LOAN
Loan size: $50,000 to $250,000
Pricing: Fixed rate and competitive with market rates
Loan term: 5 years, typically
Uses: Start-up financing, business expansion, machinery and equipment, leasehold improvements, limited refinancing, and working capital
• Sustainable cash flows
• Experienced management team
• Business plan that reflects understanding of sector and project
• Meaningful equity contribution
• Personal guaranty and other collateral
• Must be located in Upper Manhattan
BRISC LINE OF CREDIT
Loan size: $25,000 to $100,000 (minimum business revenue of 10x request)
Pricing: 8 to 12%
Loan term: Revolving with 12 Month Annual Review/Renewal (if qualified)
Uses: Working capital
• Existing business with at least 2 years in operations (no home based businesses)
• Personal guaranty / collateral
• Positive operating income
• No tax arrearages
• Must be located in Upper Manhattan
The process begins informally with a discussion with a BRISC lending officer. After the project is deemed appropriate, an application and any pertinent project-related information that may be requested are submitted to begin the underwriting process. The underwriting process ends with final loan approval by the BRISC Loan Committee. The entire process typically requires two to three months to complete.
The review and approval process is summarized below:
Discussion with a UMEZ loan officer
Application submission and due diligence
BRISC Loan Committee approval
How to Apply
Prospective applicants are encouraged to meet with a UMEZ lending officer before applying to informally explore the appropriateness of potential funding by UMEZ. To download a PDF version of the application, please click here.
In addition, all applicants must enroll as a vendor with New York City's Mayor's Office of Contract Services (MOCS) in order to obtain loan approval. Vendors must first create a NYC.ID and then enroll with PASSPort.
The following guides can help explain the process and how to fill out the Vendor and Principal Questionnaires online. If you have issues or need additional help with PASSPort, contact the Help Desk at MOCS.
SUGAR HILL CREAMERY
Sugar Hill Creamery received a small business loan in 2017 for the build-out of an ice cream parlor to provide a rotating selection of small batch ice cream and other sweet confections. Nick Larsen, the owner of Sugar Hill Creamery, and his wife saw a need in Harlem for good ice cream. Before Sugar Hill Creamery, there hadn't been a proper ice cream shop in Harlem since Thomforde's closed in 1983. Sugar Hill Creamery strives to be a neighborhood destination for those looking for a quality scoop.
FLAMEKEEPERS HAT CLUB
FlameKeepers Hat Club received a small business loan in 2016 after Marc Williamson, owner of Flamekeepers, was identified and sent to UMEZ from Harlem Business Alliance. FlameKeepers seeks to become one of New York City’s leading headwear retailers, whose mission is to offer a luxury retail experience, unparalleled customers service, along with high quality yet affordable headwear.
In 2005, Melba Wilson opened Melba’s at the intersection of Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 114th Street, one of the premier comfort food destinations in New York City. In 2015, with a BRISC loan of $250,000, Wilson was able to finance a portion of the restaurant’s expansion, which will augment its dining and bar seating capacity by almost 50%.
LOCKSMITH WINE AND BURGER BAR
Maximiliano Napa obtained a $200,000 small business loan from UMEZ for the expansion of Locksmith Wine Bar in Washington Heights. The expansion will combine the restaurant’s existing space with an additional 900 square feet of space immediately adjacent to it. BRISC loan funding will contribute to increasing the number of seats in the restaurant from 25 seats in a 600 square feet space to 60 seats occupying 1,500 square feet.
Sarina Prabasi and Elias Gurmu received a small business loan in the amount of $127,000 for the construction of the third location of their coffee shop, Café Buunni, within the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal. After the success of their other two locations, another in Washington Heights and one in the Bronx, creating an additional location in GWB Bus Terminal was a great fit to cater to locals and tourists. UMEZ’s small business loan will contribute to contractor fees, equipment expenses, and operating costs.
Galip Ozbek obtained a $90,000 5-year term loan in 2013 from UMEZ enabling him to relocate to Harlem and build-out Savann’s current location. He repaid the loan and subsequently applied for a Line of Credit. In 2019, he received a revolving Line of Credit in the amount of $40,000 to be used for working capital.
Meet the Team
Blair C. Smith, Chief Investment Officer
Andre Simon, Community Lending Officer
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