News 5 Cleveland: Local non-profit helps people of color overcome financial roadblocks

Posted at 5:34 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 6:28 PM, Oct 20, 2020

CLEVELAND — A local non-profit is looking to break down the barriers that keep people of color from accessing capital.

When Angela Sharpley set out to secure the funding she needed to expand her business, she initially found some resistance.

“I was told that there was no help for me out here,” said Angela Sharpley, small business owner.

It was the message she heard from a lender right out of the gate.

“They never got to my credit, so that’s the only thing they had to go off of was who I was,” said Sharpley.

When intentionally placed roadblocks prevent people of color like Sharpley from accessing the cash they need, HFLA of Northeast Ohio steps in to help bridge that divide.

“Our mission is to help people that don’t have access to fair financial tools,” said Michal Marcus with HFLA of Northeast Ohio.

For more than a century, the non-profit has been providing interest-free loans to those who might otherwise go without just because of who they are.

“How race and racism play out with regards to access to capital and investment absolutely needs to be at the forefront,” said Mark Joseph, CWRU professor of community development.

Along with intentional decisions based on appearance, Joseph said there is implicit bias at play.

“We have something in our perception or mindset that would lead us to believe that someone who is African-American, a person of color, is less creditworthy,” said Joseph.

Along with racism, not knowing where​ to find resources often keeps access to funding out of reach. Joseph said that includes “understanding where you can go for loans, for investment, or capital.”

It’s a similar issue Sharpley said she faced when starting out.

“You don’t have a road map to know where to go,” said Sharpley.

When people do finally find that direction, Sharpley hopes they have an equal chance to get the cash they need to invest in their community.

“I would like for the playing field to be made fair,” said Sharpley.

On Wednesday night, HFLA will tackle these and other topics during a virtual event called “Fostering Economic Equity: Fixing the Racial Imbalance in Consumer Finance.

“More corporations, banks, and larger financial institutions need to step up with fair financial tools,” said Marcus.

The online conversation begins at 5:30 p.m.

It is free and open to anyone in the community.

You can register at

Watch the full event and panel discussion, Fostering Economic Equity: Fixing the Racial Imbalance in Consumer Finance, on our website here:

City of Cleveland Awards HFLA $75,000


Michal Marcus (HFLA)

Tel: 216-378-9042



City of Cleveland Awards HFLA $75,000 for a Start-up Working Capital Fund Pilot Program


Cleveland, Ohio (SEPTEMBER 19, 2019) – Cleveland City Council approved $75,000 in funding to partner with the nonprofit Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA) for the creation of a joint pilot program, Start-up Working Capital.  Working in conjunction with the City of Cleveland’s Neighborhood Retail Assistance Program, this citywide initiative will provide working capital for locally-owned retail establishments, alleviating cash flow issues associated with start-up businesses.

The program will enable HFLA to provide up to $5,000 in the form of interest-free loans for eligible small businesses located or soon to open in the City of Cleveland.

“We are thrilled that the City of Cleveland understands the impact of interest-free loans for small business entrepreneurs. This grant from the City of Cleveland Economic Development department will truly allow us to expand upon our partnership and the number of small businesses we can help with an interest-free loan and we look forward to our continued work together,” says Michal Marcus, Executive Director of HFLA.

Kevin Schmotzer, Executive of Small Business Development with the City of Cleveland’s Department of Economic Development says, “this builds upon a partnership between the City of Cleveland and HFLA that will provide additional capital to our entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow in our respective neighborhoods.”

About HFLA of Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio was founded in 1904 with $501 donated by Charles Ettinger, Morris Black, and their friends to help European refugees settle and begin productive lives in this

country. They believed – as we do now – that if you give someone a chance to succeed, they will pay it back and we can continue this transformative cycle. The same principle guides the

organization today. By providing interest-free loans to individuals, families, and small businesses in the Northeast Ohio area, we are able to help people help themselves. The association has drastically increased its lending capital in the past few years from individual gifts, bequests, endowments, foundation grants, memorials and honorariums and is now operating with a loan fund of over $1 million. HFLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Learn more about HFLA.