At a party of retired friends, Wicks asked if they would be willing to join her in putting together a few thousand dollars to lend to young entrepreneurs. Immediately a few signed on and, in 2015, the Circle of Aunts and Uncles (CAU) was started.
Based in Philadelphia, the CAU is now seven years old and includes 45 “aunts” and “uncles.” Together, they have loaned $358,000 to 26 local businesses, with some being repeated borrowers and others just receiving technical assistance. The organization’s loans go up to $15,000, though it offers up to $20,000 for repeated borrowers. Companies have to be in business for at least six months generating revenue, as the CAU doesn’t fund start-ups. The loans must be for a specific purpose and are for one to three years.
Wicks, 75, says banks are unwilling to lend money to small businesses who haven’t proven themselves. She, too, had to borrow from her family and friends to start her restaurant before she was able to secure loans from a bank. However, many entrepreneurs don’t have family and friends they can ask for loans. That’s the gap this group aims to fill.