Four Bands Community Fund steps up pace of loans

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. ? It took Four Bands Community Fund about two years to make its first micro-enterprise loan on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation. It's taken only two weeks to make the second one.

The $1,000 loan will help Clark and Wynette Towry start a convenience store in the Swiftbird Community off Highway 212 on the reservation. The store, named C&W after the owners, is expected to open shortly. The couple, who have five children, plan to start the store by offering basic necessities and then expand into takeout foot and bait supplies.

Both Towrys will complete a ten-week business plan program called CREATE (Cheyenne River Entrepreneurial Assistance Training and Education) that the Four Bands fund established for budding CRST entrepreneurs.

Although the small loan amounts the fund has available normally wouldn't be enough to start up a convenience store, it noted that this particular applicant has received tribal support, has had buildings donated and had supplies available from his other contracting work.

Four Bands currently has two levels of loan: the $1,000 microloan and a $5,000 small-business loan. It is hoping to be able to increase loan amounts to up to $25,000, said Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, director.

Four Bands' first $1,000 loan was made to Hunter Bear Products, also of Eagle Butte, a home-based specialty gift marketer. The company is co-managed by Evan Hunter Bear and Natasha Frazier; it markets its decorative items and knick-knacks both through booths at local events and through the Specialty Merchandise Corp. catalog.

Four Bands, a community loan fund, funded both loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program. Of the $50,000 award Four Bands received from USDA, half the amount is for lending, and the other half for technical assistance. The fund also recently received a $150,500 award from the Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.

The fund seeks to build up the CRST economy by making loans to small businesses.