Small businesses in Mississippi in need of funds to bridge the gap during the rough economic stretch brought on by COVID-19 are getting help from a new charitable organization founded right here in the Magnolia State.

The nonprofit Mississippi 30 Day Fund aims to help businesses gain access to short-term, forgivable loans of up to $3,000, with the hopes that those businesses will “pay it forward” with a charitable donation back into the fund when they are on better financial ground.

Marie Sanderson and her husband Brian, who live in Ocean Springs, came up with the idea for the fund after a venture-capitalist friend named Pete Snyder roll out a similar program in Virginia. Marie Sanderson said she had a hunch Mississippians would jump at the chance to help their neighbors.

“We have businesses in Washington (D.C.) and spend time traveling around the country,” Marie Sanderson explained. “When we saw Pete set up his program in Virginia and similar funds starting up in other state’s, we saw an opportunity to create an identical charitable opportunity in Mississippi.”

Businesses owned and operated in Mississippi for at least one year that employ between three and 30 people are eligible for the loans. It is meant to supplement the government-run programs, like Mississippi’s Back to Business Grant Fund - a product of the state setting aside $240 million from federal CARES Act money.

“We have to give credit where it’s due when it comes to the elected leadership,” Sanderson said. “The Back to Business program is fantastic. We ask all of our applicants if they’ve received state or federal money, and about half of them haven’t, either because they are waiting or they haven't applied. We’re not trying to replace those programs, we just want to help supplement them any way we can.”

Initially, the Sandersons seeded the fund themselves. They contacted local businesses leaders, some of which jumped at the chance to support such an effort. They also reached out to every influential Mississippians they could find in an effort to help raise money to continue to help businesses.

They brought on a former intern of U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo Julia Grant to serve as executive director, and the organizations’ advisory board includes 50 business owners from across the state. The three in Madison include Venture Technology founder Gerard Gibert, Veriforce CEO Colby Lane and Ridgeland attorney Amy Whitten.

Honorary board members for the nonprofit include former Republican governors Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant, as well as Democrats Ray Mabus and Ronnie Musgrove.



That group didn’t just sign up to be a name and a face on the board, either. They have each been stumping for the fund in public and urging others to donate money towards the effort.

“So many of us have seen firsthand the resilience of Mississippians following times of crisis,” Barbour said. “Today, we face another challenge as the devastating economic impacts of the Coronavirus begin to take their toll. The Mississippi 30 Day Fund is another installment in this state’s ability to weather challenging times and will provide a vital source of support for our state’s small businesses.”

When it comes to screening and processing requests from businesses, the organization has enlisted help from a team of 30 undergrads from Ole Miss and Mississippi State, who are working daily to ensure the funds are getting to those businesses with the most immediate needs.

“We couldn’t help the number of businesses we’ve been able to help without those volunteers,” Marie Sanderson said. “I think that’s what makes our fund unique, even among charitable organizations - we have zero overhead, so every dollar donated goes directly to a small business that needs it.”

For now, Sanderson said the requests from small businesses are out-pacing the fundraising effort. The team is still processing applications and, but there is a waitlist for releasing the funds.

“We tell every applicant that we are actively raising funds to help them,” she said. “But the response from the community has been wonderful so far, and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to help every single eligible business when all is said and done.”

For more information on the Mississippi 30 Day Fund, visit MS30DayFund.com.