A Hive of Small Business Activity in Boston

Posted by: LISC Small Business on November 17, 2017

On a recent Monday morning, the Honeycomb Café in Dorchester’s Savin Hill was buzzing. Customers—regular and newcomers--lined up for breakfast sandwiches made from local eggs and fresh bread, and espresso steamed from locally roasted beans. In just a few short months, the Honeycomb has become a neighborhood meeting spot and comfort food staple.

But first-time business owners Nicole and Lara Miele might not have opened Honeycomb were it not for an innovative small business loan program offered by Northeastern University and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national nonprofit working to expand economic opportunity for low-to-moderate income people and places.

The goal of the Impact Lending program, launched late last year, is to nurture the local economies of neighborhoods that surround the university and position business owners to become Northeastern vendors, opening doors to significant new growth opportunities for them. In particular, Impact Lending is geared to supporting women- and minority-owned businesses in low- to moderate-income communities.

“This is super exciting,” Nicole Miele said. “We haven’t even marketed the catering part of our business yet, and we’re already starting to see interest.”

LISC’s support for Honeycomb is part of the organization’s broader economic development strategy in Boston, which since 1981 has meant $281 million in investments for housing, businesses, health, community safety and jobs, including more than $30 million to fuel opportunities in Dorchester.

Through its small business arm, LISC provided a $37,000 loan to help the Mieles pay for construction costs and purchase the commercial kitchen equipment they needed to launch. “We worked with Lara and Nicole at every step of the process,” noted Steve Hall, vice president for LISC Small Business, “from determining how much capital their business might require to shepherding them through the financial implications of the loan and how it might impact their business in the future.”

Honeycomb also received a $37,500 loan from Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, a longtime LISC partner, bringing the total loan value to $75,000.

Hall noted that traditional lenders are often reluctant to make small loans like the one the Mieles needed, particularly when the borrowers are startups or located in disadvantaged communities, Hall said. LISC takes a different approach, focusing on promising opportunities to spur growth. “With Honeycomb, we were able to look beyond the numbers to see two exceptionally responsible partners with a clear vision for execution,” Hall said. Continued [+]...