Scottsdale Community Bank: Making microloans

Inspired by the entrepreneurship of lemonade stands, Scottsdale Community Bank created a microloan program. Photo by Brandon Sullivan

De novo Scottsdale Community Bank set out to provide microloans to small and mid-size businesses, family organizations and nonprofits—a project that was inspired by the humble lemonade stand.

By William Atkinson

Scottsdale Community Bank
$28 million
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Scottsdale Community Bank is the first new community bank in Arizona in 14 years, and it already has the capacity to make more than $100 million in loans.

Why? The $28 million-asset community bank in Scottsdale, Ariz., embraces a combination of the latest technology and traditional beliefs about finance and business growth. The technology it uses allows it to maximize efficiency while minimizing costs in its operations.

“[Small businesses] need a place that will listen to their financial needs and to their dreams of being independent, having financial security, contributing to the community and providing resources for their families.”
–George Weisz, Scottsdale Community Bank

But for all its embrace of technology, the community bank took its inspiration for an innovative lending program from an old-school tradition: kids’ lemonade stands.  Scottsdale Community Bank’s Lemonade Stand Loan Program offers microloans—up to $25,000 each—to small businesses and individuals who own businesses or operate nonprofit organizations.

With its microloans, Scottsdale Community Bank offers small businesses within the community an opportunity for new growth. “They need a place that will listen to their financial needs,” says George Weisz, chair of the board, “and to their dreams of being independent, having financial security, contributing to the community and providing resources for their families.”

The aim of the program is to help small businesses take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities where funds are needed quickly and sustain their existing organizations or reach the next level. The community bank provides the same amount of due diligence to these microloans as it does for all other loans but with ease in application and process. It also customizes the terms of the loan based on factors such as business goals and financial history.

A business bank with personal service

Scottsdale Community Bank, which opened in January 2022, was the result of a decade of work by Weisz and his colleagues on their vision for a cutting-edge business bank. The community bank specializes in providing top-line banking services to small and mid-size businesses, family businesses and nonprofits. The diverse board, staff and leadership team aim to implement a plan of “doing well for investors by doing good for the community.”

“We are a dynamic bank for a dynamic community, and we conduct business in one of the fastest-growing areas of the nation,” Weisz says. “We are changing the face of business banking in Arizona by combining cutting-edge fintech technology with true relationship banking.”

Besides using the latest technology, Scottsdale Community Bank relies on truly personal service. In fact, every client has the cellphone numbers of Weisz and bank president Neill LeCorgne.

As well as being the inspiration for Scottsdale Community Bank’s microloan program, the humble lemonade stand has special significance for Weisz, who has had a miniature model of one in his office for more than 40 years.

“It reminds me of my roots in many ways,” he says. “My first exposure to business, when I was probably six or seven years old, was hawking lemonade in front of our home, earning a small amount to give me a feeling of accomplishment and teaching me the value of earning money and saving money.” It also helped build confidence, people skills and trust, he says.

Never out of sight

The model, one of his most prized possessions, is a constant reminder for Weisz of the importance of interacting with people, gaining confidence and respect for others, starting an enterprise and the hard work involved in success. Since childhood, Weisz has always firmly believed and told anyone who will listen: “Never pass up a lemonade stand.” He explains his reasoning: “One never knows whose life one might change, encourage or help succeed by buying a cup or a generous pitcher of that sweet elixir and having a nice conversation.”

“We have a vision of public-private partnerships, which, if created appropriately, can be a win-win for both local governments and their communities.”
—George Weisz, Scottsdale Community Bank

Since the Lemonade Stand Loan Program is a recent introduction, it’s still too early to gauge its success. However, it has already generated interest among Scottsdale’s business community. In the meantime, the community bank is meeting with local business associations and government entities with the goal of creating a consortium of community banks to extend microloan opportunities to local businesses and organizations.

Scottsdale Community Bank leadership has also met with government entities to see how community banks can creatively partner with state and local agencies to provide microloans to small businesses throughout the community.

“We have a vision of public-private partnerships, which, if created appropriately, can be a win-win for both local governments and their communities,” Weisz says. “In fact, we have several revitalization areas in which simple microloans may provide the horsepower for small businesses to survive and then thrive.”

Expanding the lemonade stand

Something So Worth It—a nonprofit organization in Phoenix, Ariz., that raises funds to sponsor activities for children with severe medical challenges—shares the bank’s love for the lemonade stand concept.

After learning that the nonprofit hosts lemonade stand fundraisers across the Phoenix metro area once a year, George Weisz, chairman of Scottsdale Community Bank, reached out. The community bank wanted to partner and help the organization meet its goals, Weisz says, and a meaningful relationship formed.

At Scottsdale Community Bank’s grand opening at the beginning of 2022, Something So Worth It’s founder, Allison Lefebvre, set up a full-sized lemonade stand in the bank’s lobby to advertise her organization and its events.

“It is a perfect fit,” Weisz says, “especially since our bank also specializes in helping nonprofit organizations.”

William Atkinson is a writer in Illinois.


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