When Eastern Bank launched the Foundation for Business Equity in 2017, the eventual goal was to create a nonprofit that could stand on its own.

Five years later, FBE is officially leaving the nest — by merging with a Lawrence-based nonprofit called Mill Cities Community Investments, or MCCI.

The two have distinct but complementary missions: FBE specializes in mentorship and guidance for entrepreneurs of color across Greater Boston, while MCCI had been providing low-interest loans to small businesses, primarily in the Merrimack Valley. Now that they are under one roof, the organization has the ability to provide both services — advice and capital — across FBE’s broader geographic footprint. The merger, in the works for about two years, was completed earlier this fall. For now, both groups’ brands will remain intact, under MCCI, with the goal of coming up with an overarching brand name.

The two organizations have already had a sort of trial run together: Glynn Lloyd, FBE’s executive director, also did double duty in the past year as executive director at MCCI, after longtime chief Frank Carvalho retired. Now, Lloyd will be running the combined organization. Together, the group employs 14 people at offices in Roxbury and Lawrence, with an annual budget of about $4.5 million. The organization expects to deploy an additional $10 million next year for low-cost loans and equity investments for small businesses run by Black and Latino entrepreneurs, who have long struggled to access traditional funding.

Lloyd, who is Black and co-owns City Fresh Foods with brother Sheldon Lloyd, said he hopes to raise even more money from foundations and corporate sources to provide small-business support.

“I’m really excited about where we can grow in terms of more capital on the street and continually tweaking our high-touch advisory services,” Lloyd said.

Eastern Bank initially seeded FBE with $10 million, including $2 million that went to the Boston Foundation to help start a separate fund to make loans to some of the businesses working with FBE. The goal was to give Lloyd and his two colleagues enough support so they could focus on the mission, rather than on fund-raising. Still, FBE subsequently received a few big foundation grants — including from the Barr, Boston, and Cummings foundations — as well as a $2.5 million commitment from private equity firm Bain Capital.

FBE has already helped an estimated 90 businesses since its launch five years ago.

“In 2017, we had no idea it would have the impact it would be able to have but we saw the need and moved toward that need,” said Nancy Huntington Stager, president of Eastern Bank’s Foundation. “All along, the intention was for it to be separate.

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About Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI)
Founded in 2008 by Latino leaders to bridge the capital access gap in low-to-moderate income and under-resourced communities, MCCI is headquartered in Lawrence, MA and has historically served key Merrimack Valley cities and towns while expanding services statewide. MCCI is a community development financial institution (CDFI.) As a financing and lending alternative for businesses and homeowners, MCCI specializes in identifying and providing innovative solutions for capital needs and being flexible with their underwriting process. Learn more at https://mccinvest.org/ and follow Mill Cities Community Investments on LinkedIn and Facebook.

By Jon Chesto, Globe Staff, December 2, 2022