An entrepreneur presents to The Circle of Aunts and Uncles in a member's backyard. (Photo courtesy of the CAU)
Author: To read Connie Aitcheson's article, please click here.
When Judy Wicks retired from running her restaurant, the White Dog Café, she wanted to find a way to help young, under-resourced entrepreneurs develop their own businesses. She had an idea but wasn’t sure it would work.
Like many other retired baby boomers, she had money, knowledge and time to offer young entrepreneurs. “How can I connect these two potentials?” she recalls asking. And crucially, how could she do so in a way that did not just create transactions, but built relationships and a sense of “co-creating the economy and the community that we all want to live in”?
At a party of retired friends, Wicks asked if they would be willing to join her in putting together a few thousand dollars to lend to young entrepreneurs. Immediately a few signed on and, in 2015, the Circle of Aunts and Uncles (CAU) was started.
Based in Philadelphia, the CAU is now seven years old and includes 45 “aunts” and “uncles.” Together, they have loaned $358,000 to 26 local businesses, with some being repeated borrowers and others just receiving technical assistance. The organization’s loans go up to $15,000, though it offers up to $20,000 for repeated borrowers. Companies have to be in business for at least six months generating revenue, as the CAU doesn’t fund start-ups. The loans must be for a specific purpose and are for one to three years.