$6.6 billion

Baton Rouge, La.

For many people trying to start their own small businesses, navigating finances and foundational planning can be daunting. That’s why in 2020, $6.6 billion-asset b1Bank in Baton Rouge, La., created the b1 Foundation as a 501(c)(3) public charity—one that would serve prospective small‑business owners in its Louisiana and Texas markets. 

“We recognized that we could focus our donation and sponsorship investments in certain areas and create a greater impact,” says Heather Roemer, chief of staff of b1Bank and president of b1 Foundation. “Those focus areas are entrepreneurs and education.”

Becoming bankable

According to Roemer, many small businesses fail because they do not have adequate access to capital. “One barrier to accessing capital is education,” she says. “Entrepreneurs and small business owners know their businesses or trades but may find it challenging to make their businesses ‘financially presentable.’” 

b1 Foundation bridges that gap by providing training and one‑on‑one counseling for small business owners, focusing on how to become bankable.  Will Campbell, a veteran banker and director of b1 Foundation, understands what banks need to see to provide capital to a client. And most importantly, he understands small business. 

The focus of b1 Foundation is “to enhance educational opportunities and promote the growth of the communities we serve through economic development.” 

More specifically, the b1 Foundation has three main goals: Serve entrepreneurs by providing one-on-one counseling, training classes and seminars; provide education in the form of financial literacy for grades K-12 and educate entrepreneurs on how to become bankable; and establish a home for b1Bank employee programs. 

“We moved the b1Bank employee relief program and scholarship program under the Foundation,” says Roemer. “This provides more structure to administer those programs.”

“In addition to the hard dollar access to capital that we are providing, we are solidifying our reputation in the community . . . We understand small business.”
—Heather Roemer, b1Bank

Behind the numbers

To achieve its goals, b1 Foundation hosts training classes and seminars and conducts one-on-one counseling for entrepreneurs. In terms of education for younger people, it supports programs such as Junior Achievement, Baton Rouge Young Entrepreneurs Academy and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

Its success to date has been remarkable. As of Dec. 31, 2023, b1 Foundation has counseled 545 clients and trained more than 2,400 people in its training programs and seminars. It has also arranged for more than $30 million in access to approved capital—with another $7 million in the pipeline. 

“It is important to note that these are not grants,” says Roemer. “These are business loans, lines of credit, etc. We have built relationships with other banks also, so we give each client a list of five or six institutions, including b1Bank, from which they can choose to do business.” If a client opts to do business with a financial institution other than b1Bank, Roemer notes that the bank will do a warm introduction for them to the other institution.  

In 2023, b1 Foundation opened the Governor Buddy Roemer Small Business Center. Governor Roemer founded b1Bank and loved small businesses, and the community bank thought naming the small business center in his honor was a fitting tribute to his legacy.

The b1 Foundation’s center has four functions: one-on-one business counseling services to help entrepreneurs get started, financial coaching for both business and personal finances, lender recommendations to help participants gain access to capital, and access to small business resources and education.

The center also includes below‑market-rate office space for rent to business entrepreneurs, in addition to coworking space and a conference room. Clients can rent space on a short- or long‑term basis. 

“We also host training classes at the center, and it is becoming a hub of activity and energy for small business owners,” Roemer says.

For b1Bank employees, the b1 Foundation has granted or facilitated hardship and relief grants totaling $280,000 and distributed $85,000 in scholarships.

b1 Foundation
b1 Foundation supports numerous causes and organizations, including the Lousiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

Community relations and beyond

“In addition to the hard dollar access to capital that we are providing, we are solidifying our reputation in the community,” says Roemer. “We understand small business.” 

Big Stat


The number of clients b1 Foundation has counseled as of Dec. 31, 2023

The key to success of the b1 Foundation, according to Roemer, is that it stays in its lane and does what it is good at. “We know banking, and we know how to educate small business on gaining access to capital,” she says.

In terms of the future, the b1 Foundation is currently working to expand across its footprint, which currently includes Louisiana, Houston and Dallas. Roemer says, “We intend to deepen our reach in our markets, but do so in a disciplined, thoughtful way.”