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Past Recipients

Reno Rebuild Project offering up to $50,000 in COVID loans

In 2012, on the heels of the Great Recession, Reno entrepreneurs Michael Connolly, Zachary Cage and Chris Kahl looked around and realized that many of their fellow small business owners were struggling to get back on their feet.

“Back then, small businesses were having a hard time getting money from traditional sources like banks,” said Connolly, who, along with Cage and Kahl, owns the Brewer’s Cabinet, Sierra Tap House, Ole Bridge Pub and Shim’s Surplus Supplies in Reno. “We always had problems getting a loan to start our business. It’s hard.”

In response, the Reno bar owners launched the Reno Rebuild Project, a loan fund it initially built by contributing 5 cents from every transaction at their establishments.

Notably, at the time, the group also owned Legends Grill, Sports & Spirits, and had yet to open Shim’s Surplus Supplies.

“We recognized that we got lucky and had friends and family that helped us out, and had a few credit cards that helped us out,” Connolly told the NNBW last week. “But, not everybody is that lucky, so that’s why we wanted to help.”

Eight years later, in the middle of a new recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Reno Rebuild Project founders are putting the word out once again that they want to help entrepreneurs bounce back.

The foundation announced this month it is offering loans from $5,000 to $50,000 for 3-5 years at 4% interest. All interest and repayments of the loans go back directly to the Reno Rebuild fund for future projects and investments in the local community, Connolly said.

He added that their four businesses continue to collect 5 cents per transaction to help grow the fund.

“It’s really wide open,” he continued. “We can do one (loan) for $50,000 or we could do five for $10,000. It’s really what applicants we get and who we think can take on a loan.”

To date, the Reno Rebuild Project has had four businesses apply and three receive approval for a loan. Two businesses have returned the money in full, plus interest, and the other is halfway through paying back a four-year, $40,000 loan, Connolly said.

With many small businesses using up their federal relief dollars, and a new stimulus package delayed, Connolly hopes businesses will take advantage of the Reno Rebuild fund in 2021. 

“Speaking from our own experience, it seems like you’re working harder for less money,” Connolly said. “We’re only allowed 25% capacity so that really puts a strain on businesses. So, I’m hoping the fund can maybe help a few businesses until this vaccine can get out and take effect. If this $10,000 or $50,000 can help a business survive a few more months, we’re all for that.”