Native American business owners face unique challenges when trying to access capital and
other resources to start or grow their companies. Systemic barriers, combined with geographic
isolation and a lack of collateral, have made it difficult for aspiring Native entrepreneurs to
secure business financing from traditional sources.

To help address this need, First Nations Community Financial (FNCF) launched the Wooruwi Business Loan program in 2021, specifically for Native business owners in Wisconsin. Wooruwi, meaning “to grow” in the Ho-Chunk language, provides loans up to $100,000 to eligible borrowers along with wraparound business development services and even partial loan forgiveness.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the Wooruwi loan requirements, application process,
loan terms, and conditions, and additional support available to help more Native entrepreneurs
in Wisconsin access the tools they need to succeed.

Wooruwi Business Loan Requirements

The Wooruwi Business Loan program is open to enrolled members of any federally recognized tribe who own or are starting a business located in Wisconsin. Both new and existing businesses are eligible to apply.

To quallify, the business mut meet the following requirements:

  • Located within the state of Wisconsin
  • Owned by an erolled member of a federally recognized Native American tribe
  • Have a business plan and financial projections
  • Demonstrates ability to repay loan
  • Agree to receive business coaching and technical assistance

Businesses in a wide range of industries can apply, includinng retail, hospitaity, construction, professional services, agriculture, manufacturing, arts and crafts, and more.  Howecer, the loan cannot be used for certain types of businesses, such as gambling establishments or lending institutions.


Streamlined Application and Approval Process

Compared to dealing with conventional lenders, the Wooruwi application and approval process
is designed to be much faster and straightforward for Native business owners.
Applicants first complete an initial intake form to determine eligibility. If qualified, they will work
with a dedicated lending specialist to compile the necessary documentation and submit a
complete application including:

  • Business Plan
  • Financial statements and projections
  • Personal financial statements
  • Cost estimates and bids if applying for equipment, real estate, construction/renovation, etc.
  • Collateral being offered, if any

Flexible Loan Amounts and Terms

The Wooruwi Business Loan program offers financing up to $100,000 per eligible borrower.
Specific loan amounts and terms are customized based on factors such as the company’s cash
flow, the amount/type of collateral available, and the borrower’s ability to repay.
The lending amount is $3,000 – $50,000. The terms are 12 – 60 months with interest rates
between 4%- 7.5% and a loan fee of $250. This loan can cover up to 95% of business collateral,
with FNCF taking the first lien position on all business assets. Credit checks will be done on all
with 2o% or more ownership. Financial coaching with a loan officer is a requirement for
receiving this loan. Please note that for start-ups, completing our Indianprenuership class is
required for this loan.

Up to 50% forgivebale funds

A unique aspect of the Wooruwi loan program is that borrowers can qualify for up to 50% of
their loan amount structured as forgivable funds.
For example, if a Native entrepreneur is approved for a $100,000 loan – $50,000 could be issued
as a 0% interest, non-amortized forgivable loan. As long as they fulfill all program requirements,
this portion of the loan does not need to be repaid.

To qualify for any forgivable loan funds, borrowers must complete business coaching and
technical assistance offered by the Wooruwi program. This helps ensure Native business
owners get the support they need while also incentive loan repayment of the remaining balance.

Wooruwi Business Loan Requirements

All Wooruwi borrowers are required to participate in financial training, business coaching, and
other technical assistance offered through the program’s Native Entrepreneur Training Services.
Areas of support include:

  • Financial management and accounting
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Operations and invetory control
  • Business planning and cash flow projections
  • E-commerce and digital marketing best practices
  • Understanding legal regulatory issues

These wraparound services are provided by Native-owned technical assistance providers across
Wisconsin coordinated by the Wooruwi program. The location, frequency, and topics covered
through training and coaching are customized based on each borrower’s unique business needs
and opportunities.

By participating in these services, Native business owners can continue building their capacity
and confidence to operate their company profitably long after repaying their Wooruwi loan.

How to Apply for the Wooruwi Business Loan

Eligible Native American business owners interested in applying can visit or call (715) 284-2470 to speak with a Wooruwi representative.
The dedicated Wooruwi lending team is ready to help assess your needs, guide you through the
application process, and empower the next generation of Native-owned businesses in