University of Evansville partnering with Promise Zone to support small businesses

Local restaurant could reopen if approved for loan program

UE business school, Promise Zone partnering together

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - A new partnership between the University of Evansville’s Business School and the Promise Zone is supporting small business owners. The program helps locals obtain and manage loans.

This program is now in its sixth year. It is rooted in academics but focuses on giving students hands on experience.

UE acts like a bank, extending real loans to real people. They let students run the loan and manage the whole portfolio.

They meet with the business owners from the day they walk in until they pay off the loan. The program targets women and minority owned businesses.

But it is about more than just money, the school provides coaching, training, and consulting, all to educate these business owners and help them thrive. UE works with Old National Bank, stepping in when needed while keeping students at the front line.

“There are things that I cannot teach. You cannot talk to students in a class about how to handle certain emotional reaction. You can create a case. You can create a fake financial statement and let them work on it, but it’s a completely different experience when you are talking to someone about their financial statement and try to understand why they didn’t make a profit the last quarter. There’s the emotion,” says UE Associate Professor of Finance Yasser Alhenawi.

We talked with a man who is seeking one of these loans to reopen their family restaurant. It is something he says he cannot do without this loan.

University of Evansville partnering with Promise Zone to support small businesses

You may recognize Richard Barnes. He is lived in Evansville for 49 years.

On a typical day you can find him cutting hair at the barbershop on Washington Avenue, but you may know Richard by another name.

“They started calling me Mr. Cookie, so I answer to Mr. Cookie,” says Barnes.

Can you guess who Mr. Cookie is married to?

“Everybody knows Miss Cookie. A lot of people don’t know her real name. They call her Miss Cookie,” says Barnes.

Barnes filled us in on the secret. It’s Rosalie, and she used to cook up classic comfort dishes.

“Hot water cornbread and macaroni and cheese, everybody wants that,” says Barnes.

That is until they closed in 2013.

“Miss Cookie’s coming back. She’s been out of this building a while now,” says Barnes.

The couple is ready to reopen, but costly upgrades to the grease trap are holding them back, unless they are approved for the $10,000 loan through UE’s program. Promise Zone Director Silas Matchem says it goes hand in hand with their goal to bring five new businesses to the area each year.

“Sustainability is key in putting new business in the Promise Zone. We don’t want to see businesses come in and leave,” says Matchem.

Barnes hopes Miss Cookie’s will be their legacy.

“I got a line of lineage of grandkids. It’d be a place for them to come and work and create jobs and keep this thing going until when I’m gone. I’m doing it for them basically,” says Barnes.

Before their vision can happen, the couple needs to be accepted into the program. They are in the process of applying for the loan now.

If you are interested, you are encouraged to contact UE.

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