Keona Cowan, left, executive vice president for lending at Invest Detroit. Roderick Hardamon, right, CEO and chief strategist for URGE Imprint.
Ebiara, a word derived from West Africa meaning “wood” is a symbol of hope for one local organization bearing the same name.
Detroit-based Ebiara (pronounced ebbie-air-a) is a new fund to provide early-stage capital and process assistance for minority-owned development companies looking to increase their impact on the city’s growing economy.
Geared toward providing capital, partner support, technical assistance and scalability, Ebiara is a new way of assisting emerging Detroit developers, including minorities, who are facing difficulty accessing capital and creating scalable real estate development firms, which results in developers seeking project financing.
Announced in June, Ebiara is a partnership between local management consulting firm URGE Imprint and Invest Detroit, a nonprofit dedicated to the equitable growth of Detroit’s economy, with funding from The Kresge Foundation. The two organizations plan to offer hands-on experience, local expertise and capital to help Detroit projects succeed. The loan fund will also provide wraparound support to intentionally bridge the gap by helping Black- and Brown-owned development firms improve operating capacity, build a transaction pipeline and secure the best talent available, according to a press release.
Roderick Hardamon, CEO and chief strategist for URGE Imprint, told the Michigan Chronicle that Black and Brown developers currently have “tons of challenges” in the development firm arena but they’re not backing down from the fight.
“We know all too well in our country …the systemic challenges,” Hardamon said, adding that he is hoping to be part of that answer. “I wanted to figure out ways to … start to solve those gaps and so Ebiara is the combination of our efforts.”
“Ebiara exists to help combat the challenges that minority developers face growing their business – from accessing capital to securing talent and resources,” Hardamon said in a press release. “Ebiara wants to be a partner for real estate development firms who want to scale their impact in Detroit. While the ecosystem has evolved to lower the barrier of entry into real estate development, more work is needed to crack the code on scalability.”
Hardamon said that the name “Ebiara” was used as the organization’s handle for “cultural relevance” and more.
“It has some connotations to the real estate industry and also importantly it is something that is fresh,” Hardamon said of the word. “It is something that no one has a connotation to what it is or what it means. It is relevant because we are deploying something that doesn’t exist.”
With major philanthropic support from the Kresge Foundation, the $11 million Ebiara Fund relies on three primary support tools:
- A low-cost alternative to equity to act as early-stage capital for the developer.
- Coaching and technical assistance to help navigate city processes and ensure project completion.
- Access to assets.
In its first two-year pilot phase, Ebiara intends to work with approximately 10 developers and support $100 million to $200 million in economic impact.
“Ebiara is an extension of Invest Detroit’s commitment to ensuring equitable opportunity in the growth of Detroit’s economy,” said Keona Cowan, executive vice president of lending at Invest Detroit. “It helps to leverage other existing Invest Detroit programs and neighborhood efforts while also creating growth pathways for development firms committed to and representative of Detroit.”
Cowan told the Michigan Chronicle that her role is connected to loans for small business real estate development and commercial and industrial. She said that Invest Detroit’s work with Ebiara is all about access to capital through local real estate initiatives.
“[That] has been a key driver in what we’ve done to help stabilize the community,” Cowan said, adding that boosting developers’ early capital funds is “perfectly in line” with their own mission “[which is] to support the unbanked and underbanked in Detroit and focus on creating … and stabilizing of neighborhoods [and] commercial corridors.”
Even though similar programs exist in other markets, Ebiara is described as being “unique to Detroit” by providing a lower cost of capital and is more inclusive of earlier-stage firms.
“Detroit’s minority-led developers need better access to capital on their balance sheets to compete and bid on public projects and community development work in the Detroit neighborhoods where they live and work,” said Tosha Tabron, a social investment officer at The Kresge Foundation in a press release. “The status quo of limited access to capital is unacceptable. It significantly reduces these developers’ ability to accumulate wealth, and it impedes their efforts to move Detroit neighborhoods forward. This fund directly addresses both of those issues and is one of several city-based funds that Kresge is working with partners like Invest Detroit to build.”
“This fund will go a long way toward creating more opportunity for developers of color in our city,” said Donald Rencher, the City of Detroit’s group executive for Planning, Housing & Development. “I thank Invest Detroit, URGE Imprint, and the Kresge Foundation for their commitment to improving equity and addressing underrepresentation in Detroit’s growth and revitalization efforts.”
Hardamon told the Michigan Chronicle that he has wanted to participate actively in the real estate development space and quickly realized the challenges for small businesses and he is looking forward to the future possibilities of the organization that is quickly gaining steam.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do but relatively our ecosystem is very strong in particular because of the strength of the city,” he said, adding that numerous organizations are working to help make an impact to minority developers.
For more information, visit Ebiara.com.