From the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

Sometimes all it takes is a little cash and someone to believe in you for a business to blossom. No one knows that better than Fred DeLuca, who started the Subway chain of sandwich shops in 1965 with just $1,000.

Today, the co-founder of the $3 billion business wants to nourish the ideas of budding entrepreneurs who may be as cash-strapped as he once was. His nonprofit Micro Investment Lending Enterprise (MILE) grants loans of $700 to $1,500 to people at or below the poverty level who want to start businesses.

Here's how it works: People join and form "borrowing circles," which meet once a week to brainstorm about each member's business plan. Experts advise and guide the group, and the entire circle must approve the business plan before a member can apply for a loan.

Loans are granted by chapter leaders based on character and the business plan's soundness. There are no credit checks or collateral requirements, but the loans, given at 10 percent interest, must be paid back within a year. At that time, entrepreneurs may reapply for another loan twice the size of the orignal loan amount.

If interested, call (800) 888-4848, ext. 1636 or visit www.mileloans.org.



Pamela Rohland often writes about the joys and tribulations of entrepreneurship for a variety of regional and national business publications.