When I launched Champion Impact Capital in 2012, I was focused on developing creative, impactful public-private partnerships to sustainably invest in the long-term social and environmental health of communities. In my mind’s eye, I saw Champion Impact Capital addressing poverty through our expertise in municipal finance, real estate and ESG investing. I wanted Champion Impact Capital to develop creative capital structures across a variety of issues and asset classes, functioning as project development intermediaries, asset managers and principal investors—and we’ve done that!
But over the last 10 years, we have come to understand that our mission is more about building prosperity rather than overcoming poverty. The entities we have developed—On the Road Companies—cannot help a homeless person no matter how much we would like that. Instead, we have narrowed our focus, which has invigorated our work with better understanding of our core competencies.
This is what we know—our customer is the working family who wants to move upward.
On the Road Companies helps working families in a multitude of interrelated ways. On the Road Sustainability Funds formed on the heels of Champion Impact Capital 10 years ago, attracting investors who were willing to take a small return on their invested capital to get our customers on the road. On the Road Lending formed in 2013 based on the idea that better cars lead to better jobs and better lives. This is our nonprofit arm that fights predatory lending with an affordable alternative, helps people find cars that work for them, and teaches them how to make good financial decisions.
Over the last several years, as we scaled On the Road Lending from Texas into Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, we began to think of our business in a manufacturing context. Our “raw materials” are cars, capital and clients. Our process is essentially to de-risk our clients, helping them to cross from subprime to prime borrowers, and providing them a way to become consumers of something better with the freedom to own their time and labor. Affordable loans for reliable cars provided them with opportunity to build more prosperous lives. In most cases, the financial benefit derived through savings on interest and car repairs can approach $20,000 over the five-year term of a loan.
With this supply chain in place, we began to work backward on the value chain. Where could we create value, bring down costs, or gain efficiency to improve our business for the betterment of our clients, our community and ourselves? Those who supply directly to us include:
To improve upon our value chain, we launched two new businesses in 2020 to address the cars piece—On the Road Garage and On the Road Motors.
On the Road Motors purchases vehicles directly at auction, eliminating middlemen, which brings down costs for our borrowers. A unique tech-focused collision repair business, On the Road Garage fill a skills gap and talent pipeline shortage. In addition to a commercial enterprise, it rebuilds more than cars with a collection of five Department of Labor-registered internship programs. We train people in collision repair, advanced driver assistance systems calibration, and other smart car technology, a dependable and growing employment opportunity.
This is what else we know: our model works and is ready for large-scale growth. The investors who have funded our loans receive the same market-rate returns of 1 to 3% that traditional securitization investors receive—but our loss rate is three times better. We have learned that our robust capital stewardship and belief that borrowers will succeed instead of fail minimizes adverse impact on families and results in strong financial performance.
Champion and On the Road Lending worked together in 2021 to conclude our first New Markets Tax Credit transaction in partnership with Goldman Sachs and US Bank. This $8 million investment will help scale the impact of On the Road Garage, which is opening its second location in February.
Our lending and financial mentoring business expanded into Indiana in 2021 and is heading into Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and North Carolina in the coming year. On the Road Sustainability Funds closed its first EQ2 transaction in late 2021 with Cadence Bank, formerly Bancorp South. This $5 million investment with low-cost capital will grow our work in several of our markets.
We continue to look for investors and partners to join our prosperity movement who share our guiding principles of innovation, curiosity, dignity, collaboration, ownership, knowledge, transparency and courage. Over the last 10 years, we have taken risks and embraced experimentation and creativity. We believe that fortune favors the bold. Every day the people at On the Road Companies get up and come into work to build prosperity. It’s our calling. We get to make a difference and see people’s lives improve. It’s a freedom movement, too—the freedom of mobility.