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About the Capital in the Community Fund (CICF)

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01. Is CICF a loan or a grant?

We’re changing our terms up a bit, so while traditionally we would label the Fund as a “loan,” we call it handshake financing. CICF offers several handshake financial products under its umbrella, and the right one for you depends on the stage of your business. All investments must be repaid to ESO based on the terms of the agreement.

02. If I have no revenue yet, can I get an equity investment to cover my startup costs?

We do not provide equity-based investments at this time. However, we do provide a financial product for businesses with zero-to-little revenue. $5,000 is the maximum amount a business without verifiable revenue can request from the CICF.

03. Who is eligible to access CICF?

ESO alums who have completed the ESO business incubator program and are paying members can apply to CICF.

04. Do I need tax documentation to access CICF?

We have one financial product at $5,000 for very early-stage businesses. All other financial products require your current year tax schedule or most recent year of business taxes.

05. How much financing am I able to get from CICF?

CICF handshake financial products range from $5,000-$100,000, depending on the stage of your business.

06. Do I need to pay back financing received from CICF? How does repayment work?

Yes, financing is meant to be repaid. Repayment begins three months after the money has been disbursed. Financing terms range from 24 to 60 months, depending on the product.

07. What is the starting place for the CICF?

Begin the process with a Start Your Capital Conversation by setting up a meeting with the Fund Intake Specialist. The ESO growth team refers members to the Fund. Join ESO today to learn more.

08. What do I need to do access more capital in the CICF?

ESO entrepreneurs must complete all required checkpoints on the milestone plan to move up a business stage and access more financing and business services. This is a show and prove model. The better your business performs, the more resources you have access to. The current maximum financing amount for the CICF is $100,000 per business.


09. How are finance decisions made by the CICF?

Our finance decisions are made using an innovative process we call our Handshake Model. Traditional banks use the “5 Cs of Credit”:  Capacity, Capital, Collateral, Conditions, and Character. ESO uses the “5 Cs of the Handshake”:  Confidence, Competence, Capital, Connections, and Community.

ESO builds up these 5 Cs of the Handshake through its programs, readying  entrepreneurs to receive their first business investment.  

10. How long does the approval process take?

If all requirements are met and we have received your documentation, the approval process should take around three weeks – subject to change.

11. What are the differences between a grant, a loan, and an equity investment?  Which is the CICF?

A grant is considered additional income, with no requirement for repayment, as outlined in the grant agreement. 


A loan is an extension of money with terms and conditions outlined in a loan agreement; stating loan ramifications and other legal jargon outlining responsibilities of the borrower, monthly payments, interest, and repayment schedule to stay in compliance with owing money to the organization who extended the loan. 


An equity investment is money that an investor gives to a company to buy shares in that company, with the expectation of earning dividends or reselling shares once the company becomes profitable.

The Capital in the Community Fund provides invoice- and working capital-based financial products. Traditionally, these products would be referred to as a “loan”. At this time, CICF primarily serves in the capacity of a lender; providing financing with an expectancy of repayment. However, no legal jargon this way :).

12. What is the average finance size for ESO investments?

ESO does not make investments; financing is decided by the Fund team and deployed through the CICF. Our average finance size depends on your business stage and finance product, and ranges from $5,000-$100,000. Please refer to the Start Your Capital Conversation Rubric for additional information regarding your minimum and maximum finance amount eligibility.

13. What can I use/purchase with the financing received by CICF?

Currently, the financial products available under CICF may be used for current, past due, and project based invoices; as well as to directly pay contractors, landlords, and organizations. Some invoice and project expenses include: past due, outstanding, or future forecasted invoices, materials, labor, rent, equipment, payroll, or business repairs.

Does ESO place my order on my behalf once the invoice has been paid? 


No. It is the business owner’s responsibility to place an order directly to a vendor/merchant for the items stated on any submitted invoice.

14. Can my revenue or online payments transfer over once I open my business bank account or do I need to start from scratch?

Please contact your local bank regarding this question.

15. Do I need a Schedule C (Form 1040) to access the CICF?

We currently have one financial product for businesses pre-revenue or in their first year of operations, the Forever Forward Fund, which provides up to $5,000 to pay for outstanding business expenses. All other financial products require you to submit a Schedule C as a part of your completed application.


A Schedule C (Form 1040) is used to report income or loss from a business you operated or a profession you practiced as a sole proprietor. An activity qualities as a “business” if:


  • Your primary purpose for engaging in the activity is for income or profit; 

  • You are involved in the activity with continuity and regularity. 


Schedule C forms are for sole proprietor businesses. Businesses legally registered as S-Corporations (Form 1120-S) or Corporations (1120) are required to submit these forms.

16. Are there any business expenses prohibited from being paid by CICF?

At this time, financing from CICF may not be used by  business owners to repay state, city, county, or federal debt; such as to pay a tax bill, compliance, or renewal purposes. Cannabis businesses are also ineligible for financing through CICF.

17. I have more questions! How do I get in touch with the CICF team?

Please reach out to us at

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