Senior Sabrina Kaplan (left) and freshman Hans Mueller-Schrader (right), with Evanston entrepreneur Victoria Adams (center). LEND, the Northwestern University student run non-profit, is developing a business plan and website for Ms. Adams' vocal coaching business.                                  Photo by Katherine Nagasawa.

First Bank & Trust has announced a new partnership with Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Development (LEND), a Northwestern student-run non-profit organization providing microfinancing to small businesses in the Evanston community.

“It’s a natural fit for us to be working together,” said Michael Corr, senior vice president for  commercial banking at First Bank & Trust.

“First Bank & Trust has a vested interest in the Evanston community, and by partnering with these students, we can reach businesses that are not qualified for traditional bank financing,” he added.

LEND provides loans of $500 to $10,000 to Evanston-based entrepreneurs who do not qualify for traditional bank loans due to a lack of credit or insufficient assets. Since the organization’s founding in 2009, it has disbursed more than $27,000 in loans to nine businesses, including a jewelry store, a barbershop and a community-fitness studio.

In addition, the students provide one-on-one business development services to small business owners, assisting with operations, financial recordkeeping, and marketing strategies. The organization emphasizes strong relationships with business owners, and ultimately hopes to lay the foundations for future success.

“We’re really excited about this partnership,” said Salil Gupta, a junior computer science major at Northwestern, who serves as LEND’s president. “Microfinance is a valuable asset to the community because a lot of entrepreneurs out there are ‘Mom and Pop stores’ who aren’t looking for a lot of capital.”

As part of the partnership, First Bank & Trust has invested $10,000 in the LEND microloan fund. The students will use this as match funding for new loans to small businesses. For example, if a small business needs a loan of $10,000, half of that will come from LEND funds and the other half will come from the funds invested by First Bank & Trust, thereby expanding the capacity of the organization.

Mr. Corr said the bank has referred clients that represent a good fit for financing through LEND’s services and will continue to do so.

The bank also plans to provide financial training to LEND clients and applicants, as well as industry training to Northwestern students and volunteers, providing them insight into careers in banking.

“We believe it is a true win-win for everyone involved,” Mr. Corr said.