Diversity Lending Program helps entrepreneur grow business, hire more employees

June 12, 2024
TechKnow 123 owner Kashif Kincaid, left, worked with U.S. Bank branch manager Ramone Davis and others to secure funding to help his business grow.

Arkansas-based TechKnow 123 owner has gone from one employee to 10 with help from the U.S. Bank program

For more than a dozen years, Kashif Kincaid ran his company as a mom-and-pop operation and bought supplies with his personal credit cards. He dreamed about growing the business, hiring more employees and expanding his offerings, but ran into a series of roadblocks when it came to getting financing.

A woman and two men standing together
Cassandra Kidd, left, Kashif Kincaid and Ramone Davis.

“I was defeated for the longest time,” said Kincaid, who owns TechKnow 123, which provides IT services in Monticello, Arkansas.

“I couldn’t understand how I could go to my local banks and get loans for boats, four-wheelers or personal loans, but none of them would approve financing for my dream and my passion,” he said.

“I checked all the boxes of having good credit, owning material items, having paid personal loans off early and being able to show my company was a legit operation with years of revenue and profits, but multiple local banks said no,” Kincaid said. “For the longest time, it made me feel like we would just stay a mom-and-pop shop and that’s where my dream would end.”

Through a mutual friend, Kincaid met Ramone Davis, who manages the U.S. Bank branch in Little Rock. Davis introduced Kincaid to Cassandra Kidd, a U.S. Bank Business Access Advisor who specializes in helping underserved business owners.

“Kashif was the second person I talked to when I started the role,” Kidd said. “He’s been great to work with.”

Kidd helped Kincaid get approved for financing through the bank’s Business Diversity Lending Program, a special purpose credit program that provides credit and financing designed to help minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses grow and thrive.

Kincaid was able to establish a line of credit, buy three vehicles for his business and open business credit cards in the company’s name so he could stop using his personal cards.

“That gave me the freedom to grow,” he said. “I’ve gone from having one employee to having more than 10 full-time staff.”

Kincaid said he has expanded TechKnow 123 to provide additional services, including audio and video installation, smart home installation, website and graphic design, phone system installation and upgrades, custom audio/video systems, access control systems, security systems and more.

“We are a one-stop shop,” he said. “U.S. Bank helped us have the financial freedom to hire more people and provide professional development training, and the buying power to handle large projects.”

Heather Kesner, leader of the U.S. Bank branch and small business region that includes Arkansas, said the Business Access Advisor program is helping a number of underserved business owners like Kincaid.

“Inclusive growth is central to our long-term approach to help close the wealth gap,” Kesner said. “Our Business Diversity Lending program, Business Access Advisors and broader branch team are making a difference for business owners in central Arkansas. And by helping them grow their businesses, it enables them to create jobs and improve their communities in other ways.”

While Little Rock is 90 miles from Monticello, Kincaid said it’s worth the trip to work with U.S. Bank.

“Ramone and Cassandra helped me see outside the bubble I’d been in,” Kincaid said. “Being able to meet with people in upper positions who shared my culture helped me become more comfortable in asking questions I didn’t know the answers to. They took the time to educate me because they cared, and they provided me with the tools and education to do my part so U.S. Bank could do their part and help me grow my dream. It gives me hope for the next generation that lending can be available for everyone.”

With TechKnow 123 growing, Kincaid said he has created a nonprofit to provide children in his community with somewhere to receive workforce development assistance in a safe space with no labels attached.

“I came from nothing,” he said. “I had a dream and a vision, but I had every reason to not keep going, so that’s where my nonprofit came from, to give back to my community and show that you don’t have to play sports to get out of your neighborhood.”

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