Even though Connecticut is home to some of the world’s largest corporations (including 17 Fortune 500 companies) and, infamously, the world hub for hedge funds, small businesses remain the heart and soul of the state’s economy. According to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), small businesses make up 99% of the state’s employers and employ almost half of the state’s total population. Connecticut small business loans provide funding opportunities and other resources to ensure that small businesses continue to grow and thrive, even (or especially) in the midst of an economic crisis.
Ahead, we’ll walk you through six of the best loan programs made available through the state. In particular, these loans tend to focus on promising startups, businesses that can spur job growth, those in competitive industries, and business owners who’ve struggled to access financing from traditional lending institutions, such as minority business owners and those operating in low-income areas.
That said, there’s truly something for everyone with these six Connecticut small business loans. Here’s what you need to know.
When you’re researching Connecticut small business loans, a good place to start is by checking out the DECD Funding Opportunities hub, which aggregates all the loan, grant, and other financing opportunities available under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Another tactic is to go straight to the Small Business home page, which provides an overview of the major small-business-specific funding programs that the DECD either offers itself or other statewide or regional lenders with whom they partner.
But to give you a better sense of what the Nutmeg State has to offer small businesses, here’s an overview of six of their marquee funding programs.
First, we have to note that the DECD is not currently accepting applications for this program. That said, it’s still worth understanding what this program offers in case you’d like to periodically check back to see if their books are open.
Now, on to the details: The Small Business Express Program is an umbrella program, provided by the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), that offers two types of financing for Connecticut-based small businesses that employ fewer than 100 employees:
Funds can be used for a variety of purposes, like leasehold improvements and training, though the specific focus for both is to spur job growth and retain current full-time jobs. While all eligible businesses will be considered for this loan program, priority goes to businesses that intend to create jobs in economic-based industries, like manufacturing and green technology. Take a look at the Small Business Express procedures guide for more information on the program and application process.
If your business operates in the manufacturing industry, consider applying for a loan or grant through the state’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund (IMF). There is no one, single application or information hub for the IMF. Instead, you can find funding and support opportunities according to your objective: Accelerate Growth, Facilitate Innovation, Cultivate Talent, or Investigate Careers.
The Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund Voucher Program (MVP) is just one loan program that operates under the IMF. This program provides access to capital to manufacturing businesses seeking the specialized equipment and/or expertise they need “to become more efficient, productive, and competitive.” More specifically, loan funds can be used toward things like market analysis, compliance and monitoring activities, business development, or patenting and licensing (among other eligible use cases), in addition to purchasing equipment. Businesses can apply for vouchers up to $50,000.
Connecticut Innovations is the state’s strategic venture capital arm that supports new and growing tech businesses in a few ways, including providing businesses with three types of funding opportunities.
CI makes a few venture capital solutions available to small businesses, including equity financing up to $1.5 million per round and a pre-seed fund for early-stage businesses, among other programs.
CI works directly with banks to provide two loan programs to businesses that are struggling to secure bank loans without their assistance (for example, the business is too young or can’t meet collateral requirements). The first is a general loan program for small and entrepreneurial businesses, and the other is designed for businesses at varying stages of growth that supports investments of a longer term.
Finally, CI offers seven grant programs through their wholly owned subsidiary, CTNext. Among those offerings is a grant for businesses in high-growth mode, a program that connects businesses seeking new talent with 40 universities, and one that provides brand-new businesses with up to $1,500 for reimbursement of startup costs.
The Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides resources, assistance, and funding opportunities to small businesses based in low-to-moderate-income areas across the state. To that end, CEDF can offer loans to otherwise eligible businesses that haven’t been able to secure bank loans (because they lack collateral or have challenged credit, for instance)—a.k.a., businesses that traditional lending institutions have deemed “unbankable.”
CEDF offers three types of direct loans: term loans, commercial real estate loans, and lines of credit. Other than their flexible eligibility requirements, there are tons of unique benefits attendant to these loans that make them more accessible—for example, there’s no application fee or prepayment penalty. Plus, participants have access to a dedicated CEDF Business Advisor, workshops and seminars, and other forms of education and long-term support. And as an authorized SBA lender, CEDF can offer SBA Microloans up to $50,000.
Also, CEDF partners with DECD to provide women-owned and minority small business owners with a loan guarantee of up to 30%. This isn’t a loan in and of itself, but it can help marginalized business owners qualify for financing where they would struggle to do so without that added security.
Community Investment Corporation is an economic development lender that provides both direct loans and loans in partnership with the SBA (they’re an authorized SBA lender) to entrepreneurs in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
MicroNOW is the CIC’s direct loan program, which offers loans of up to $15,000 within two weeks. Loan funds can be used for virtually any business-related purpose, including working capital, purchasing inventory or equipment, refinancing debt, and more. Through the SBA, CIC offers three loan programs: Microloans, Community Advantage, and 504 loans. You can find out more about all of these loan programs on the CIC website. Additionally, you can fill out a contact form to find out which of their funding programs your business may be eligible for and which might cater to your particular needs.
One final funding institution for your consideration is BDC Capital, which boasts the title of the country’s oldest business development corporation. Financial institutions throughout New England invest in BDC, which then extends several financing solutions for promising small businesses across the region. Among their many offerings include working capital loans, equipment loans, real estate acquisition loans, and debt restructuring; but, for the most part, whatever your business needs to fund, there’s a BDC program to help you do it. As you would imagine, this powerful institution is also an authorized SBA lender, so they can also help businesses secure 504 term loans and SBA 7(a) Loans. Contact BDC’s Hartford, Connecticut headquarters to find out more.
We hope this guide has given you some insight into which state or regional lender can provide the funds and assistance your business needs to start or expand. That said, your options are certainly not limited to state-sponsored loan programs. If you’re having trouble landing a bank loan in particular, consider applying for a loan through an online lender. These companies—like OnDeck, Funding Circle, and Bluevine, to name just a few—exist specifically to provide capital access to businesses that have been shut out of the lending space. As an added bonus, the entire process—from shopping to applying to receiving loan funds—is faster and easier on these tech-based platforms than traditional processes.
But if you’re still feeling a little lost, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Fundera loan expert. They can walk you through all your best loan options, both through our trusted online lending partners and brick-and-mortar institutions. If you’d like to keep your search hyper-local, though, you can always reach out to the SBA or SCORE chapter nearest you, both of which can offer financial assistance and other types of guidance and mentorship.