Bucking The System

Small Business Investment Companies pick up where traditional banks leave off.

When Henrick Coriolan immigrated to the United States from Haiti nearly 20 years ago, he came with nothing. Nothing, that is, but the entrepreneurial spirit and a dream of turning himself into a successful businessman. "I came to work, to learn and to be a professional," he says.

Today, with a small New York City taxicab fleet and an auto service center in Brooklyn, New York, Coriolan has achieved success by almost any yardstick. It took a lot of hard work, to be sure. But it also took capital. Coriolan got his, thanks to the federal government's venture capital programs. More important, his experience may provide a guide for other entrepreneurs looking for a place to go when banks say no.

Coriolan raised funds through a Specialized Small Business Investment Company (SSBIC), which is licensed by the SBA. He could have also tapped a plain old Small Business Investment Company (SBIC), also licensed by the SBA. The first "S" in the former title refers to "specialized" firms that concentrate on making funds available to economically disadvantaged people. Because Coriolan was an immigrant and an African-American, he qualified under the SSBIC program.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bucking The System.

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