A New ISO Forgivable Loan Program Can Leverage and Grow Revenue Stream for Minority and Women-Owned Business

For more information, contact:
Brenda Rayner

Three years in the making, the Mid-South Quality Productivity Center (MSQPC), an extension of Southwest Tennessee Community College's business community outreach initiative, and Greater Memphis Chamber joined with the Assisi Foundation to offer an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) forgivable loan program for minority and women-owned businesses.

Executive Director/CEO of MSQPC Donn Fisher said this program will increase the revenue stream for minority and women-owned businesses. It will help them bid on government contracts outside of Memphis and outside of the Mid-South. The goal of the ISO loan program is to increase contracts, sales, receipts or value of shipments for the companies who successfully complete the ISO training and become ISO certified companies.

"My research shows that there is only about one to two percent women-owned and minority-owned businesses in the country that are ISO certified. Companies like FedEx and UPS require you to be ISO certified to get the larger contracts. A lot of the Department of Defense agencies now require businesses to be ISO certified," said Fisher.

Six viable firms will be selected to participate in the program. Fisher said, "The selection committee will be made up of various stakeholder groups like MMBC and other groups that know the value of certification."

In the past the cost issue involved with certification – as high as $28,000 to $40,000, was a barrier for many small minority and women-owned businesses. MSQPC and the Chamber secured a pricing agreement with a national ISO consultant to lower the cost of training and consulting. To save a substantial amount of money, the six companies will go through the training as one organization.

"We have our best trainer Mark Webber who has worked with the center for 23 years and has helped certify over 30 companies for ISO that supply FedEx. ... He has never had a company that he's worked with fail certification. We brought him in on the project."

The deadline for application is March 30. For more information, contact Donn Fisher at 901-543-3530 or dfisher@memphischamber.com.