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These married entrepreneurs who drive rusty old trucks launched a website that's helped 26,000 stimulus loan applicants and received praise from Mark Cuban

Duncan and Rita MacDonald Korth
  • Duncan and Rita MacDonald-Korth started the crowd-sourced website covidloantracker.com when they heard nothing back about their Payroll Protection Plan stimulus loan applications.
  • The couple, who drive rusty old trucks and live in a small Miami rental house, wanted to provide more information to small businesses.
  • Through site surveys, they found that 10.2% of PPP loans have been approved, with a median loan size of nearly $77,000.
  • "I love what they are doing," billionaire Mark Cuban told Business Insider. "Sunlight is a great disinfectant and also an informative tool for businesses to be able to compare their experiences and results with so many others." 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Duncan and Rita MacDonald-Korth, married Miami entrepreneurs who drive rusty old trucks, didn't think it was right when the US government's COVID-19 stimulus loan program funded restaurant chains and publicly traded companies while not even responding to many struggling small businesses.
When neither of them heard back about their own Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) stimulus loan applications, they started a website of crowd-sourced information called covidloantracker.com to help loan applicants across the country. Since they launched the site in the second week of April, it's become wildly popular: the MacDonald-Korth's now hear from 1,000 people a day and students in a class at Harvard created custom data-visualization graphics for it.
Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a star of the show "Shark Tank" told Business Insider that he loved what the site was doing.
"Sunlight is a great disinfectant and also an informative tool for businesses to be able to compare their experiences and results with so many others," he said.
In total, the MacDonald-Korths have gathered survey information from more than 26,000 stimulus loan applicants, including 18,000 for the embattled PPP loan program.
"We're getting emails with hopes and fears and concerns and gripes – and a lot of thank yous," Duncan tells Business Insider. "That's what is really rewarding."

The story of the MacDonald-Korths: 'What real small business owners are like'

The MacDonald-Korths first met as varsity athletes at the University of Oregon: Duncan was captain of the tennis team and Rita was captain of the basketball team. They both got injured at the same time and met during physical rehabilitation at the university training facilities. Soon, they were dating.
"Rita was kicking my butt playing basketball," Duncan remembers. "That's when I learned how competitive she is."
After college, the duo moved abroad so Duncan could study anthropology and economics Oxford, and then back to his home state of Florida in 2017, where they both founded their own companies: Duncan, a money-management blog, and Rita, a brand of luxury home furnishings and other items sold online and in pop-up displays in retail stores.
The energetic couple lives in a small rental house in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables, where they drive what Duncan describes as "easily the worst two cars in the neighborhood" – a 1990 GMC Suburban and an "even worse" 2002 GMC Yukon. He says that their trucks, which aren't glamorous but are built for hard work like hauling goods for Rita's business, are "emblematic of what real small business owners are like."
They decided to build the COVID-19 loan tracker site to help frustrated business owners like themselves to access data.

A troubled $660 billion+ loan program 

In total, the Small Business Administration earmarked more than $660 billion for Payroll Protection Plan loans, the centerpiece of the White House's emergency COVID-19 stimulus plan to mitigate the effects of the plummeting economy. After at least 220 publicly traded companies got loans in the first round, the SBA vowed to give small businesses a better shot during the second round,which started this week.
For applicants like the MacDonald-Korths, the lack of information was the most frustrating part. "We didn't even get a tracking number," Duncan says. Now they get plenty of information on SBA loans – the troubled PPP loans and longtime Economic Injury Disaster Loans – from small business owners all over the country. 
Of the 18,199 PPP loan applicants who provided information to covidloantracker.com, only 10.3% had their loan request approved, with a median loan size of nearly $77,000, a median employee count of nine, and a median wait-time of 10 days. Seventy-nine percent of approved applicants already had a loan with the bank that gave them the PPP loan. The site also provides information on what types of industries and banks are getting loans, and information on the EIDL loans.

Covidloantracker graphic

Buddy Shepherd, the owner of a three-truck transportation business in Pine Mountain, Georgia (70 miles south of Atlanta) who is not making any income at all right now, says the loan tracking site helps him feel less alone.

Buddy Shepherd

"I wasn't able to get anybody onthe phone at the SBA — I couldn't get any updates," he says. "Now at least I know what other folks like me are going through."
Receiving information through the MacDonald-Korth's site has made Shepherd more optimistic about his chances of getting a loan during the second stage of the program, which began this week.
"I'm the king of hope," he says.

Support for the site has been overwhelming

Since the MacDonald-Korths launched the site, support has flowed in from all sides.
Beyond Mark Cuban posting about it on social media, the couple have also received Ivy League support when Harvard graduate student Cody McCoy worked with his class on politics and technology to create data visualization graphics for the website.
"Rita and Duncan provided a huge community service by gathering crowd-sourced data on the loan program," McCoy says. "The crowdsourced data is so valuable because there simply isn't any other data."
An online lending startup called Fundera approached the company after Fundera CEO Jared Hecht saw Cuban's social media post. Hecht says he wanted to work with the MacDonald-Korths because "they just exude passion and exuberance."
Fundera is now promoted on the site and the MacDonald-Korths will receive a small cut if applicants' loans through Fundera are approved. Duncan says his data shows that online lenders have the best chance of securing loans for small businesses and urges applicants to apply with more than one lender for better chances.
Duncan and Rita say that the experience of the last month has inspired them to find more ways to continue helping small businesses in the future.
"This PPP mess has highlighted many ways in which small businesses are lacking support," Duncan says, "Access to credit being just one of them."
The SBA declined to comment for this story.
SEE ALSO: Zoom, Palo Alto Networks, and Cisco are big winners in the remote work boom, according to a new report from Okta, as employees try to stay connected and safe
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* This article was originally published here Press Release Distribution

Source - http://www.businessinsider.com/

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