Portland, OR. Minority entrepreneurs in the Portland metro area and other parts of Oregon and S.W. Washington are receiving a boost. At a press conference at MESO’s headquarters in Portland, KeyBank announced a $150,000 commitment to support the nonprofit Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). Above, Josh Lyons chats with Cobi Lewis at grant announcement. (Photo credit, Antjuan LaShawn)

Tralice Lewis, owner of Callie’s Custom Hat Wigs, said when she opened her first store, it was the first Black-owned wig shop in Oregon.

The entrepreneur, Tralice Lewis, first heard about MESO in 2020 from relatives who are also MESO clients. Lewis received financial assistance from MESO and attended several its classes where she learned about marketing online and managing cash flow. “They give you all the tools you need to build your business,” said Lewis (no relation to Cobi Lewis). “MESO has guided me. They check in with me. They help me along the way with the process. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could not have done this without MESO. That organization is amazing.”

It’s all smiles for the group including: MESO client Gaila Lusby, KeyBank exec Josh Lyons, MESO head Cobi Lewis, MESO client Tralice Lewis, MESO exec Jataune Hall.

The funds will be delivered during the next two years. The $150,000 will enable MESO to expand its technical assistance and financing to unbanked, under-represented entrepreneurs – especially Black and Latino – in Portland metro, rural Oregon communities and S.W. Washington. The services help disadvantaged entrepreneurs start new small businesses and assist existing ones to recover from the pandemic.The new gift increases the total KeyBank has donated to MESO to $440,000 since 2016. It is the most the bank has ever given to a community organization in Oregon and S.W. Washington.

“We love MESO and all it does to help our fellow community members succeed financially,” said Josh Lyons, KeyBank’s market president for Oregon and S.W. Washington and Commercial Banking leader. “Our mission is to help our communities thrive. Nowhere is that more important than in underserved communities that often lack access to business expertise and funding.”

“This time of year typically brings May showers, but we’ll always remember this April as the month that brought a huge gift to our organization,” said Cobi Lewis, MESO executive director. “This outstanding level of support from a partner such as KeyBank will strengthen our community by helping entrepreneurs.”MESO clients will participate in classes to gain skills and knowledge to create a strong business foundation. They will also have access to market research to identify industry and market trends and be eligible for no-interest credit builder loans.

“In addition, when participating entrepreneurs and their businesses are determined to be ready, they’ll receive access to affordable capital through our innovative forgivable loan program, thanks to this support from KeyBank,” Lewis added.

“We are delighted to again partner with MESO to help these industrious, small-scale entrepreneurs improve their communities through business development,” Lyons said. “We’ve seen how MESO’s proven model and comprehensive services can lead to increased revenue, business retention and loan repayment.”

Gaila Lusby from the woman-owned Momma G’s Soup sells her homemade soups and gluten-free baked goods to wholesale and retail clients. She, too, received financial support from MESO and attended all its business classes.

“I can’t say enough about what they’ve done,” said Lusby. “Without them I would not be where I am right now, not in a million years. The advice they’ve given me has been priceless.”About MESOMESO has an incredibly successful track record. Its results include:• 85% of its clients increase revenues between 30 and 1,600%.• 94% of its clients remain in business after graduating from MESO’s program.• $5,000,000 in matched savings to entrepreneurs through Individual Development Accounts.• $11,000,000 in loans to more than 900 borrowers since 2011, with an average loan size of $15,000 and a 1% default rate.• 56% of loans are placed in communities of color.For more information, visit www.mesopdx.org.About KeyCorpKeyCorp’s roots trace back nearly 200 years to Albany, N.Y. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Key is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $186.3 billion on Dec. 31, 2021. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management and investment services to individuals and businesses in 15 states under the name KeyBank National Association through a network of 1,000 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs. Key also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets trade name. For more information, visit www.key.com. KeyBank is a Member of the FDIC.