Plaza Rotary Club Launches Microloan Program for Entrepreneurs at The Sewing Labs


The pilot program is a collaboration between the Plaza Rotary, AltCap, and CHES, Inc., with the goal of advancing economic equity in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, MO – March 8, 2023 – The Rotary Club of Kansas City-Plaza today announces an economic equity program to provide microloans to fledgling entrepreneurs who are completing training with The Sewing Labs.

The program, RISE Microloan (for Rotary Investing & Supporting Equity), is offered through AltCap, a community development financial institution serving small businesses, with the support of CHES, Inc., a nonprofit financial empowerment organization. The program begins as a pilot with The Sewing Labs, a non-profit bringing sewing education to Kansas City, and will expand to other non-profit organizations that also provide training to prepare clients for entrepreneurship as a path to financial stability.

“We are troubled by the opportunity gap that exists in Kansas City, understanding that disadvantaged entrepreneurs lack access to capital and networks of support,” said Lisa Deatherage, president of the Plaza Rotary. “As Rotarians and people of action, we decided to create a program to address these needs and, working with partners, empower disadvantaged entrepreneurs.”

AltCap is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that offers specialized financing and business advisory services to help give small business owners access to the resources and capital they need to grow. The $125,000 RISE Microloan fund, administered by AltCap, will provide small loans to participants of The Sewing Lab to start or grow a business in the textile industry.

AltCap is thrilled to deepen its support in Kansas City’s creative community, having previously financed one of The Sewing Lab’s community partners, Weave Gotcha Covered.

“We’re excited to partner with the Plaza Rotary and The Sewing Labs to pilot this program that will help fuel entrepreneurial ambition in Kansas City,” said Ruben Alonso III, CEO at AltCap. “Drawing on the Rotary Club’s history of promoting businesses and The Sewing Labs mission to empower entrepreneurship, this partnership offers a nurturing environment that supports newly trained entrepreneurs in pursuing their dreams.”

The Sewing Labs, the pilot organization for this model program, offers a U.S. Department of Labor-certified program in industrial sewing machine operator training called The Sewing Salon Training. The program provides a pipeline of stitchers to support the numerous Kansas City businesses seeking to hire trained sewing machine operators.

In addition to the workforce development program, The Sewing Labs offers community classes to the public in basic sewing and other workshops addressing tailoring, upholstery, embroidery, fashion and more.

“We often say we change lives one stitch at a time,” said Eileen Bobowski, Manager of Development and Outreach for The Sewing Labs. “Now we also have a way to fuel the entrepreneurial aspirations of our clients.”

For example, a client who develops Industrial sewing machine operator skills to perform tailoring, custom design, or alterations might seek resources to acquire an industrial sewing machine, which can cost $3,000 or more. Such a microloan can provide immediate access to start building a business, she noted.

“With the support of partners, we will together equip our students with the tools to launch, manage and grow their dreams,” Bobowski said.

CHES, Inc., a Kansas City-based nonprofit that provides housing counseling and financial education, will support the program with its certified counselors who provide clients with the knowledge and confidence necessary for long-term financial success.

“CHES, Inc. is honored to partner with the Plaza Rotary and AltCap on the RISE Microloan program. Our mission to provide financial empowerment resources and education aligns perfectly with the program’s desired outcomes to help entrepreneurial recipients achieve financial freedom,” said Coley Williams, President and Co-Founder.

Plaza Rotary and the RISE Microloan program intend to expand the program to other non-profits as well as provide the template for the program to other Rotary clubs. Rotary operates internationally with 1.4 million members who take action by volunteering time and resources to solve problems and address community needs.

About Rotary

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.4 million members of more than 46,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. For more information, visit

About AltCap

Founded in 2005 with a mission to provide fair access to capital, AltCap is a critical source of alternative debt financing for communities and entrepreneurs overlooked by mainstream finance. AltCap is a mission-driven and community-focused organization that has deployed over $32 million in loans to more than 800 small businesses.

About The Sewing Labs

The Sewing Labs is an inclusive and welcoming community that teaches the legacy of sewing for employment, entrepreneurship, and enrichment. In its focus for Workforce Development, The Sewing Labs focuses on individuals who find themselves in at-risk situations and, through sewing, leads them toward lives filled with financial and emotional dignity.

About Credit & Homeownership Empowerment Services, Inc. (CHES, Inc.)

CHES, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public benefit organization, dedicated to empowering low-to-moderate income individuals and families with the knowledge and confidence necessary for long-term financial and homeownership success. As a HUD approved housing counseling agency, CHES promotes financial education to residents in the Kansas City area. During the global health crisis this expanded from home ownership and credit ready education for rental households as well.

Media contacts:

Plaza RISE: Nancy Shawver, 816-916-1141,
AltCap: Megan Crook, (816) 216-1851,
The Sewing Labs: Eileen Bobowski, 816-888-3051,
CHES, Inc.: Justin Walker, 816-463-0200,