Even the most successful organizations face difficulties when expanding, and charter schools in particular face extra challenges. Public funding is determined by current, not projected, student enrollment. Advances for capital needs can be difficult to obtain from traditional banks, particularly given the often unfair reputation charter schools have as risky investments.
Founded by eight local teachers in 2010, I CAN’s first campus opened serving grades K-8. The school was an immediate success, earning a “B” rating in its first year – the first charter school in Ohio to achieve that feat. But things weren’t easy. After operating two years in “survival mode” – as school co-founder and CEO Marshall Emerson III describes it – the school’s administration realized that additional help was needed to expand. So they turned to Charter School Capital.
“Banks don’t get it sometimes. They don’t get that we’re doing good for the community,” explains Emerson. “Charter School Capital was able to assist with advice and with the financial landscape. Moreover, they have been very willing to make connections and introductions that help us.”
The industry expertise Charter School Capital provided combined with working capital funds enabled I CAN to realize several goals in a short period of time. Now, the charter school network operates seven campuses serving approximately 2,200 students across Ohio, including three new campuses in Akron, Maple Heights and Canton that just opened in Fall 2013. Emerson states that the network’s rapid growth is rooted in a desire to serve more kids, in particular low-income and minority students that are at risk of dropping out.
“Students mentally drop out in 7th grade; they just stop going to class in 12th,” says Emerson. “The better foundation we can give them, the better students do in the long-term. That’s why we’re here.”
During the next decade, I CAN has an aggressive plan continuing its expansion in Ohio, and eventually entering additional states, all in partnership with Charter School Capital.
“We’re able to speak confidently now about growth thanks to Charter School Capital,” concludes Emerson. “We were able to pay off a lot of our bills and then fund our growth. It’s been a real blessing.”