By Richard L. Williams

Kevin J. Price knows all about the challenges diverse businesses often face when looking to capitalize their business. Price is a former community development banker whose last stint in lending ended in 2006 when he left M&F Bank, a minority-owned financial institution headquartered in Durham, as vice president and senior business development officer.

Today, Price is senior director of supplier diversity at Novant Health where he works closely with diverse suppliers across Novant Health’s integrated network of physician clinics, outpatient facilities and hospitals in North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.

Although he hasn’t been a commercial lender for more than a decade, Price’s passion for helping small businesses nevertheless remains strong. In 2018, he and his former employer collaborated to launch the Diverse Supplier Community Reinvestment Program. The $5 million loan program was developed to provide working capital to diverse businesses that are currently members of Novant Health’s supplier network in its four-state territory.

The program, Price says, was established to help capitalize Novant Health suppliers that are women, persons with disabilities, veterans, ethnic minorities such as African Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics, or those who identify as LGBTQ. He says Novant Health wants to be an industry leader at providing historically underutilized businesses the opportunity to participate on many levels of the procurement process, in part, because it impacts community economic development.

“One of Novant Health’s core values is diversity, inclusion and equity, a part of which is supplier diversity,” Price says. “Having a diverse base of suppliers creates economic development in the communities that Novant Health serves. It’s about economic development in the communities we serve. We want the communities that we serve to be stout not only from a health standpoint, but also economically.

“Supplier diversity creates an opportunity for people to be able to provide for their healthcare on their own terms for the remarkable care that we provide,” he adds.

Novant Health recognizes that diverse businesses face challenges securing capital for business growth, and those challenges impact their ability to more effectively compete.

“My job is to impact the economic development activities of Novant Health by monitoring and improving the procurement spend base with diverse businesses,” Price says. “That’s why we’re excited to partner with M&F Bank to provide the Diverse Supplier Community Reinvestment Program, which offers expedited access to bank loans at competitive rates.”

Internally, Price works with members of Novant Health’s executive team, members of the finance team, division senior vice presidents, the chief diversity and inclusion officer, and the senior vice president of supply chain – all of whom he constantly provides supplier diversity data and strategic recommendations. He says Novant Health’s spending with diverse companies accounted for more than $111 million in contracts in 2018, extending from 2006 the successive number of years the company has approached $100 million in spending with businesses in those categories.

“Supplier diversity has become part of the culture at Novant Health,” Price says. “Our Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Action Committee is made up of division SVPs and they help me plan our strategic direction. Meanwhile, our Supplier Diversity Work Group, which is made up of managers, directors and VPs, focuses on tactical activities.”

Another compatible initiative aimed to help diverse businesses is Novant Health’s membership in the Healthcare Supplier Diversity Alliance, which collaborates with the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth for a weeklong minority business executive training program.




The loan application process is streamlined and features an online application on the M&F Bank website, a review by senior commercial lenders, and a dedicated underwriting team, according to Evelyn Acree, a senior vice president at M&F Bank.

To qualify, the business must be certified as a diverse business owner, is a current Novant Health supplier, and must have a direct contracting relationship with Novant Health. Once M&F Bank reviews the loan application, Novant Health will confirm whether the applicant meets all criteria for approval.

Acree says the two companies came together to create the program because both recognize that there was a real need. Historically underutilized businesses have experienced more difficulties in obtaining working capital adequate enough to compete as suppliers for large companies, Acree says. However, small businesses employ nearly 50 percent of the workforce in the private sector, she adds, and tend to employ diverse workforces.

“Small and diverse businesses frequently have more difficulty securing working capital to grow their capacity and increase their competitiveness,” Acree says. “This is a real and tangible investment in the women- and minority-owned business community. M&F Bank and Novant Health understand the challenges that historically underutilized businesses face in having access to capital to grow their business. We’re working together to address some of these businesses’ capitalization concerns for diverse Novant Health suppliers.”

Acree says the loan program is in keeping with M&F Bank’s support of historically underutilized businesses. M&F Bank was founded in 1907 and is the oldest African American-owned bank in North Carolina and the second oldest in the U.S. It currently is the ninth-largest minority-owned financial institution in the country. Founded to serve those who historically had been underserved by the banking industry, M&F Bank has a long track record of helping small businesses obtain and maintain working capital, according to James Sills, M&F Bank’s president and chief executive officer.

“The Diverse Supplier Community Reinvestment Program serves our mission as a community bank very well, and satisfies our credit-risk criteria,” Sills says. “It offers the potential of a very positive impact in all the communities served by M&F and by Novant Health.”

Sills says M&F Bank continues to create commercial lending opportunities for businesses who are not a part of the Novant Health supply chain.


Company gets $150,000 loan


Elite Touch Cleaning Services, a Charlotte-based commercial cleaning company, was the first business to secure a loan through the joint program. Elite Touch has been providing cleaning services at a Novant Health distribution center in Kannapolis since 2008 and the company obtained a $150,000 line of credit through the program last year for capitalization, says Elite Touch’s owner, Mario Mendigana. The maximum loan amount for a borrower through the loan program is $250,000.

In addition to the loan, Mendigana also was sponsored by Novant Health to attend Tuck Business School’s “Building a High Performing Minority Business” executive education program. He says the education program helped him develop a plan to accelerate his company’s growth.

“The program helped me put a strategy together,” Mendigana says, “and the line of credit has definitely helped us on the cash-flow side.”

Price says he wants diverse companies to become involved with the loan program and experience the same type of business growth that Mendigana experienced.

“The program is a great opportunity for firms that have a strong company, but due to some issues like a lack of collateral or a blemish on their credit history, may not be able to get financing through traditional lending,” Price says. “These financial barriers could make larger corporate projects inaccessible to significant numbers of diverse small and medium-sized businesses despite their competency to meet high industry standards.”

Information about the loan program is available at www.novanthealth.org/supplierdiversity or www.mfbonline.com. Those interested in attending Tuck Business School’s executive education program can apply by visiting www.hsdafordiversity.org.


Diverse Supplier Community Reinvestment Program Criteria

  • Maximum loan amount is $250,000 or 25 percent of the total contract or whichever is less
  • Applicants must be a current supplier with Novant Health
  • Suppliers must be classified as Tier 1, meaning a direct contracting relationship with Novant Health
  • Supplier must be certified as diverse owned (ethnic minority, woman, veteran, disabled or LGBTQ
  • Term of loan is based on term of supplier’s Novant Health contract
  • Interest rate will be variable with a spread over Prime, based on risk grade of the business
  • Periodic principal and interest payments will be based on Novant Health contract term
  • Fees will be up to 2 points of origination fees plus applicable closing costs
  • Application fee of $150 will be collected at closing
  • Collateral contingent upon assignment of contract and contract payments and/or other acceptable collateral


How the Diverse Supplier Community Reinvestment Program Works


After entering your name, phone number, email address and Novant Health supplier information, an M&F Bank loan specialist will contact you to confirm the loan criteria and type of loan needed.



Your M&F Bank loan specialist will spend time getting to know you, your business and financing needs while guiding you through the loan application process. The goal is to approve your loan request within seven business days from receiving a complete application package. You will apply online and upload your application and financial documents through a secure portal.



Once approved, you will be notified of the approval terms and Novant Health will be notified of your participation in the program. M&F Bank will provide you with a loan commitment and loan documents. M&F Bank will disburse the loan proceeds to your account after receiving the original executed and completed loan documents.



A loan with M&F Bank is the first step in a long-term relationship. Once your loan closes, we will set up the most convenient way to service your loan with technology and auto-payment processing. We will make sure all your banking needs have been met.