When three Black entrepreneurs wanted to open a restaurant in the Crossroads District, they had trouble getting a small business loan. But then they heard about WeDevelopment Credit Union, a Black-owned and Black-led credit union, and it was able to get them the money they needed to open.
“People are finding out about us because of word of mouth,” says WeDevelopment CEO Gwen Washington. “They’re finding out that when other lenders are saying no, we say yes.”
While it took years of paperwork, fundraising, and red tape to get the WeDevelopment Credit Union chartered, the community development credit union finally opened its doors in January at 3123 Prospect Ave.
Efforts to start the credit union date back to 2009, with the idea coming out of a task force commissioned by then KCMO Mayor Mark Funkhouser to work on improving “economically distressed areas” of the city.
As a Community Development Credit Union, WeDevelopment is chartered to serve populations that typically have limited access to safe financial services.
The credit union’s initial products include personal and business savings and checking accounts, an online and mobile banking app, along with auto, signature and a specialized home loan product.
“I was with a member who has a predatory loan and the interest rate was 175%,” says Washington. “Do you know if you go and look at an online loan calculator you can’t even put in 175% interest rate, it won’t even allow it.”
In addition to alternatives to payday loans, WeDevelopment offers small business, personal, auto, and emergency loans with a personal touch. They seek to offer services like home improvement loans that meet the surrounding neighborhood’s needs.
“Oftentimes at banks, what they offer is designed for the shareholders,” says Washington. “We’ve come up with products and services that members have asked for.”
“We want to be bigger because we want to have these additional departments, but I still want the small community feel. I want people to come in and feel like we can talk as friends.”– Gwen Washington, CEO, WeDevelopment Credit Union.
Casual & Welcoming
The location is intentionally set up to not be intimidating. There’s Black art on the walls, music is in the air and there’s no teller line or stuffy suits.
Instead, there’s a coffee bar, with four stools, front and center in what would traditionally be called the bank’s lobby. There’s also a large conference room for training classes organizers hope to add in the near future.
Washington says that WeDevelopment would like to have more departments and employ more people. They are hoping to be able to make mortgage loans in the next year because many banks don’t like to write home loans on more affordable houses like those in historically disinvested areas. They’d also like to increase the amount they can lend to small businesses, which is currently capped at $50k.
To expand, employ, and educate more folks, they are looking for more members and deposits. The city has an account, as well as the Urban League, and a few churches and organizations – but to reach their goals, they are looking for new partnerships.
“I’m just so happy with the community and how much they’ve embraced us,” says Washington.
Within the next five years, Washington says she’d like to see two more WeDevelopment branches in the Kansas City area. She’d like to see a branch on Troost near KC’s northeast area and she’d also like to partner with or open a location in Kansas City, KS.
“We want to be bigger because we want to have these additional departments, but I still want the small community feel,” says Washington. “I want people to come in and feel like we can talk as friends.”
To learn more, visit WeDevelopmentFCU.com.