Success Story
February 21, 2023

With EDA Support, Small Businesses Fulfill Big Dreams in Kentucky

“Your dream – our mission.”

That’s the motto of Community Ventures, a community development financial institution (CDFI) that has been serving Kentucky since 1982. Today, they operate five offices throughout the state and are committed to improving the quality of life for all of its citizens.

In the 1990s, Community Ventures began offering microloans of up to $50,000 to small businesses and entrepreneurs who are unable to obtain them from traditional lending providers. Because of this practice, they have awarded the most loans statewide and are regularly recognized for their contributions to economic development. The Kentucky Small Business Association recently named them “Microlender of the Year” – for the 20th consecutive time.

“Clients usually walk in with a basic idea and we help flesh out a complete business plan,” said Kevin Smith, President and CEO. “We then determine the financials of the loan, identifying how much start-up capital will be required and how much debt the client can assume. After the loan has been approved, our team of business trainers continues to offer their assistance as needed.”

Economic downturns often propel CDFIs into the spotlight, and the pandemic was no exception. In 2020, the demand for microloans grew exponentially. Community Ventures turned to the Economic Development Administration to help meet this growing need. In 2021, they received $3 million in CARES Act funding to establish the Business Resiliency Fund and provide affordable, fixed-rate loans to help offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sisters Debbie Nutt Stein and Blakey Nutt Martin, owners of Louisville’s Sissycakes Bakery, home of the “best cakes ever.”
Sisters Debbie Nutt Stein and Blakey Nutt Martin, owners of Louisville’s Sissycakes Bakery, home of the “best cakes ever.”

The EDA award allowed Community Ventures to reach more clients than previously possible, including Willie Ray, owner of a local gym, No Limits Innovative Strength Training. When the pandemic prevented patrons from using his facility, the business suffered while the bills accumulated. Community Ventures awarded a microloan that enabled the business to relocate to a new facility while providing working capital to keep vendors at bay.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and this loan prevented one from closing its doors,” Smith recalled. “Business is greater today than before the pandemic, demonstrating that microloans are critical to the nation’s economy.”

Another loan made possible through the EDA grant enabled sisters Debbie Nutt Stein and Blakey Nutt Martin to realize their dream of owning a custom bakery called SissyCakes. Desserts once made only for family and friends, supported by funding and technical assistance from Community Ventures, proved to be the recipe for success. The sisters have moved operations from a local business incubator into their own commercial space.

It is this approach to serving the individual that has allowed Community Ventures to support so many small businesses throughout Kentucky.

“People will pay back their friends before they pay back their bankers,” Smith said. “They need ties that bind them to their neighborhoods and the hope for a better future.”


  • Small Business Development/RLF