CEO says the memory of his grandfather is the fuel that inspires him to make Lendistry the largest African American lead community lending institution in the country.
If you read Everett Sands bio or check out his LinkedIn, you’d see all the standard prestige that you’d expect from a bank CEO. Ivy League education and corporate experience at both a Black- owned bank and then, what most would call up and onward to a pristine career in banking at Wells Fargo. But Everett Sands and Lendistry are much more than just your typical bank or lending institution, and Sands is much more than your typical bank CEO.
Sands says Lendistry, is the perfect formula combining the speed and convenience of technology, the knowledge and guidance of responsible lending professionals, and the investment capital of social impactors and national banks. Sands says, “Our mission is to provide economic opportunities and progressive growth for small business owners, and their underserved communities, as a source of financing and financial education. Responsible lending for the benefit of both small business owners and investors, is at the core of Lendistry’s culture.”
Sands took time out of his busy schedule to speak directly with the Sentinel; he wanted the community to know that both he and Lendistry are so much more than your typical lending institution.
Sands graduated high school from the prestigious college prep school, St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania where he received a BA in Japanese Economics. This educational foundation equipped Sands with the knowledge necessary to lead a traditional lending institution, but Sands says it is his personal and family experiences which drive him to make Lendistry the largest and Black-lead lending institution in the country. He says his motivation started with his grandfather who in 1939 opened the first tailoring shop and school in Washington, D.C. He says his grandfather’s business was very successful and that his grandfather was the first African American to receive a contract from the U.S. Army.
He says his grandfather’s business grew, but like so many Black-owned businesses, some bad financial and tax advice ultimately hurt the business. That experience is what drives Sands to help every business. “By understanding what happened to my grandfather, I look at every business as if they are [my] grandfather and if not but for Lendistry or Everett, maybe their business doesn’t grow, their business has to consolidate.” Sands says this is the motivation that inspires him to work longer, harder, and push his team to heights like very few banks have ever achieved. “Business is a great builder of wealth in our community. Wishing I was there for him (my grandfather), he is definitely part of the fire that keeps me going,” says Sands.
When the COVID pandemic began to effect local businesses, the State of California allocated $500 million to assist small and minority-owned businesses, but they needed a qualified financial institution to administer the program. In comes Lendistry, who competed and won the opportunity to serve as the administrator for the California Relief Grant (CRG). Sands says that when they received this award, they had to coordinate services for over 60 different financial institutions and received over 344,000 applications in just 44 days. But Lendistry was up to the challenge. Sand says by leveraging the systems, their lending alga-rhythms, by leveraging our people, and their technology. “We were not only able to service the $500 million in state funding, but the State of California added another $2 billion to the CRG Program, bringing the total available dollars $2.575 billion and making it the largest state program in the country,” said Sands.
But Sands says that Lendistry is much more than just an administer of State funds, Lendistry has three separate client funding sources. One is a partnership with several banks who either don’t have the lending products or resources to fund small local businesses. He explained, “We have about 50 bank partners who use us to invest or deploy capital. When we started, it was about credit profiles, but no, it’s also about operational efficiency.” Lendistry can play a part in working with small and local businesses to help them obtain the capital necessary that traditional banks cannot.
The other role Lendistry plays is in administering funds for governmental institutions like the County or the California Relief Grant. Lendistry has the capability to compete with any of the larger financial institutions, and because of their hands-on and personal approach to business evaluation, feel they can do a far better job than the traditional lending institutions.
The other part of Lendistry is serving as a traditional Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Lendistry funds small businesses with a variety of lending programs, with lines of credit with term loans and even supports commercial real estate investments. Sands says business is the best resource to building wealth within the African American community. He says that investing in a business, especially here in California, is a better way to build wealth than buying real estate. “Especially here in California, a person can often buy two or three franchises for what it costs to invest in a home or duplex.”
The other key service that Sands takes great pride in is The Center for Strategic Economic Studies and Institutional Development. This non-profit 501(c)3 was started in Baltimore MD to help African Americans expand their business. The founder was Joy Bramble, the owner of the Baltimore Times, one of several local African American newspapers owned by Bramble and her family.
Sands points out that the Center for Strategic Economic Studies and Institutional Development is older than Lendistry by 16 years. Joy’s son, David Bramble serves as chairman of the non-profit’s board and together, he and Sands have managed to leverage individuals who have had great success inside of the Los Angeles Community. They developed a program that provides one-on-one counseling based on businesses’ needs, along with online education to assist businesses and business owners to reach a level of operations that makes sustainability possible. Sands says that the program is run by Constance Anderson who serves as the program’s president.
“Before taking the helm of the Center for Strategic Economic Studies and Institutional Development, Constance ran the largest small business development company in CA, but now we have been able to leverage her skill set along with Lendistry’s technical skills to create a program that does so much more than just business development,” Sands said. He pointed out that Lendistry and the center have several strategic partnerships with companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Eco System, as well as Metro Link project. Sands explained, “Our staff and our partners are committed to doing whatever it takes to make our clients and their businesses better. Sometimes it’s a mom-and-pop company trying to understand financials, sometimes it’s a business looking to grow or assistance with business procurement. We look at all these challenges and help these businesses position themselves for growth.”
Lendistry and Sands are looking at a variety of opportunities in the area and they want to make sure that their clients and business partners are ready when the opportunity presents itself. Sands points out that they are looking at events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics coming to Los Angeles, and point out that LAX is constantly growing, including all the Metro lines under construction. “We want our clients to be able to seize these opportunities. We are looking at helping business growth through construction procurement, how to get a bond, how to fill out applications,” Sands said. Whatever it is, Lendistry and The Center for Strategic Economic Studies and Institutional Development are sister organizations; one handles technical assistance and business advising and the other handles capital, but together, they work to ensure that none of our clients miss the opportunity.
“Lendistry does about $4 to $5 billion of lending, which makes them one of the top minority lenders; we have intentionality to helping minority businesses, but we really just want to be the best and help as many businesses as we can,” stated Sands.
Lendistry is not trying to only be a small business lender. Sands says that Lendistry has plans to expand in the fourth quarter of this year. He says they are looking to launch a new consumer lending program. But Sands says this program is not a traditional individual consumer lending program, but more of a consumer business lending program. “We’re not really talking about consumer lending to individuals, it is really looking to find ways to fund small business. Let businesses focus on their core business with a ‘buy now, pay later’ approach. We’re saying to our customers we already finance you, now let us finance your customers. What we’re hoping is that we free up small business to do what they do best,” he said.
Sands gives this example of their planning: We will finance a dentist; we will give her working capital for her to grow her business. Now, a family wants to buy braces for a couple of thousand dollars. She can offer financing for the braces to her customer. We give her the money up front, so she doesn’t have to worry about cash flow. We do what we do best, which is lend money and collect the payments. We think this is going to be fairly enterprising program for African American businesses in our community.” He says it’s not a new idea; if you’re a baby boomer it was called layaway, Gen X & Z called this 0% credit and Millennials, they now call it buy now, pay later. We call it whatever marketing calls it, and for this generation, it’s called buy now, pay later. But we do think it will be a phenomenal resource; were just trying to help small businesses.
Sands says that he has a never stop, never give up approach to Lendistry. He points out that the tradition PPP has closed. He says that the only lenders still loaning PPP funds are CDFI’s. He says when people asked if he was going to close his PPP program he said, “Absolutely Not. My grandfather may still be out there looking for help, so If I have to stay up later, if we have to work harder, I have excepted and accepted that task.”
There are a lot of community development and finance programs out there, but Sands points out that what makes Lendistry different is the community. “Our people, our people make us unique. We care and we’ve been there before. What makes us unique to the small business owner, is we think about them. We have great products, we provide great service, we employ a mentality that is missing today, but was around when we were younger. We’re trying to be a game changer. We’re going to take on bigger projects with the mentality and the hope factor. It’s like when Obama got elected President. We said OK, we can do this!”
Sands says he hopes Lendistry is not the only Black lending institution that’s loaning billions of dollars. He says that while the billions of dollars they are lending is good, he believes they should be lending trillions of dollars. “I want us to be trailblazers; I hope we are not only paving the way for those small businesses to be able to receive funds. But I think it’s important that we are sitting at the table when the rules are being created for capital deployment. That’s how we will have the right rules in place for the different federal and state programs.”
Everett Sands says what keeps him pushing to move Lendistry to the top is that he knows there’s a young person out there who is thinking about a career in finance or thinking of starting a business; he wants to make sure that the future dreamers have someone that looks like them showing them the way. Then maybe, they will say, “If he did it so can I”