Helping local businesses and transforming Petworth's economy through microfinance Initiatives

by Isabelle Wisco (Georgetown University ‘22)
Guest contributor

Petworth distinguishes itself from other DC neighborhoods through its tight-knit and engaged community. For many residents, the area represents more than just a physical location — it’s an extended home where neighbors are bonded through shared experiences and frequent events.

Following the closing of some local businesses, Petworth is at a unique crossroads concerning its economic development. Do we let commercialization take its course, overrunning the surrounding local enterprises? Or do we change the tide and take action to support our neighbors’ businesses?

HMFI members leading a Group Financial Coaching session at Carlos Rosario

This is where the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative (HMFI) comes in, a 501(c)3 nonprofit created and managed by Georgetown University students that offer real solutions through Small Business Loans and Group Financial Coaching. Broadly speaking, HMFI aims to stimulate economic growth in the DC area. Much like Petworth, we’re unique in our field.

As the largest student-run microlender in the nation, the organization is managed and staffed entirely by undergraduates at Georgetown University who dedicate their time and effort without compensation. This volunteer-based model puts HMFI at an advantage over other lending services by allowing us to offer $500-$10,000 business loans with a low, fixed interest rate of 6%.

If you, or someone you know, are looking for resources to maintain/expand a small business, we highly encourage you to submit a loan application with HMFI.

Our deep commitment to social impact means that we want to help Petworth business owners, especially those who have encountered difficulty from the recent commercialization. Our mission goes beyond simply providing economic resources; instead, we invest in committed partnerships that allow our clients to thrive.

HMFI members with loan client

For instance, our first client Bernardo received a loan to finance a new refrigerator for his food truck. Eventually, his business became so successful that he later opened his own brick-and-mortar store with the aid of two more loans from HMFI. Committed to fostering professional growth, we want to give Petworth business owners the same opportunities to better realize their goals and reach their full potential.

Not only do we empower local business owners, but we also serve hundreds of DC residents through our Group Financial Coaching program. Our sessions teach specific topics (i.e., Budgeting & Saving, Predatory Lending) that allow clients to improve their personal finances.

Petworth residents can directly benefit from this program by learning practical information for everyday use and better understanding how to make shopping locally and supporting Petworth businesses more feasible in their daily budget.

Our sessions are held at various adult charter schools, the closest one being at Carlos Rosario in Columbia Heights.

With a passion for helping those who have been overlooked and underserved, we believe HMFI provides the much-needed tools to best retain the tight-knit, engaged community that defines Petworth.

Additional Information

  • Read more about our Small Business Loans, including information about our application, required documents, and underwriting process.

  • Check out our success stories.

  • Shoot us an email with any inquiries!

Ed Note: This is NOT a sponsored article — HMFI approached Petworth News about reaching local businesses, and we thought the Georgetown University non-profit sounded like it could benefit Petworth businesses. If you own a local biz and are looking for ways to raise funds, here’s one more possible idea.