The Hartford has committed $16 million over five years to help small business owners succeed through its new Communities with HART initiative. The first two investments include $1.25 million to the Accion U.S. Network to benefit 500 small businesses and $1.5 million to Junior Achievement USA (JA) to support 100, 000 students.
Communities with HART will encourage the well-being of America's communities by enabling today's small businesses to grow and inspiring a new generation of small business leaders. Together with Accion, The Hartford will provide loans and training to small businesses that lack access to traditional sources of capital. In partnership with JA, The Hartford will be the title sponsor of its flagship JA Company Program®, helping to inspire the students of today to become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
"The Hartford is passionate about helping small businesses prevail, " said The Hartford's Chairman, President and CEO Liam E. McGee. "Communities with HART will benefit small business owners and inspire would-be entrepreneurs to achieve their full potential. As a leading and trusted provider of insurance for more than one million small businesses nationally, we and our partners know how important successful entrepreneurs are to a strong economy and vibrant local communities. We are determined to help small businesses succeed by providing access to the funding and knowledge they need."
Enabling today's small businesses to grow
Communities with HART is based on the premise that neighborhood businesses are the heart of healthy and vibrant local communities, yet these business owners often lack access to traditional loans. The ability to obtain financing can help them thrive.
In fact, according to Accion's 2013 microTracker survey, 1 Accion clients who received loans in 2011 report:
"Accion's partnership with The Hartford allows us to provide loans to small businesses that have the potential to make a positive difference in their communities, " said Gina Harman, CEO of the Accion U.S. Network. "Across the U.S., there are small business owners in the U.S. who can't access traditional loans to grow their businesses due to a lack of training and education, unavailability of small loans, or a short business track record. With support from Communities with HART, these obstacles can be overcome."
Accion will manage the Communities with HART loan process, focusing on community-oriented businesses in low- and moderate-income areas that hire and source locally, deliver social value and make a positive difference in their neighborhoods.
During the initial phase of Communities with HART, The Hartford and Accion will focus on four markets: Chicago, Hartford, San Antonio and San Diego. As the initiative expands, the lending opportunities will be extended nationwide by the third year of the partnership.
In addition to increased access to capital, businesses will also have the opportunity to receive training and financial resources. As part of these efforts, business owners will also have access to The Hartford's Business Owners Playbook, which is available free-of-charge to all business owners and features new, engaging content that provides valuable knowledge to aspiring and existing business leaders.
Business owners interested in learning more about Communities with HART can visit http://us.accion.org/give-back/the-hartford for more information and to apply.
Inspiring a new generation of small business leaders
As title sponsor, The Hartford will help bring JA's flagship JA Company Program curriculum to high school students across the country, featuring a new online learning component. The nationwide program offers groups of students the opportunity to launch their own small business while learning the basics of entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business success.
"The Hartford's investment in the JA Company Program plays a crucial role in re-conceptualizing the way we prepare students for the opportunities in today's complex global marketplace, " said Jack Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. "The new JA Company Program will spark the entrepreneurial spirit in our students by infusing technology, promoting contemporary teaching methodology, and providing young people opportunities to learn in ways that are both measurable and memorable."
The Hartford has supported Junior Achievement of Southwest New England for 10 years. Since 2004, the company has reached nearly 9, 000 students, engaged approximately 1, 350 employees and contributed over $1 million. In 2013, the local JA moved its headquarters to a 6, 100 square-foot office space in Hartford, Conn. owned by The Hartford. The company renovated the property for JA and offers the space at below-market rates.
"Communities with HART extends The Hartford's decade-long relationship with JA, " said McGee. "Our employees will have the opportunity to volunteer to lead JA Company Program classes that inspire youth to become career self-starters."