Doing Business in Metro Charleston Get to know Michelle Mapp CEO of the S.C. Community Loan Fund

Michelle Mapp heads the S.C. Community Loan Fund, a nonprofit that helps people with housing and other services.

Michelle Mapp is CEO of the South Carolina Community Loan Fund, a nonprofit agency that finances projects to provide housing, access to food and other services. It also helps to attract businesses, employ community members and stimulate economic activity to transform and revitalize disadvantaged areas.

Since 2004, the Charleston-based agency — formerly the Lowocuntry Land Trust — has provided $27.4 million to help develop more than $221 million in community development projects. The funding has created or retained 3,159 jobs, financed seven healthy food outlets, nine community facilities, 10 community businesses and 1,291 housing units that provided housing for 2,228 people.

Its annual operating budget is $1.7 million and its program budget is $6 million. The agency loans and revolves capital to continually expand and sustain its mission, and it recently adopted a new logo (see page D-12 for more on that.)

Mapp is a certified housing development finance professional by the National Development Council.

She serves on the board of directors for the S.C. Association of Nonprofits, S.C. Community Capital Alliance and the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.

She graduated from Clemson University in 1991 with a degree in industrial engineering and she earned a master’s degree in engineering management in 1994 from George Washington University while working as an operations research analyst for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

In 2006, she completed a joint master’s degree in public administration from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina. Her interest lies in the areas of community and economic development.

Prior to joining SCCLF, Mapp worked for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies on supply chain and transportation planning solutions. She has been married for 20 years to Marquette A. Mapp, and they have two children, Seth Alexander and Jordan Alexis.

Q: Who is your favorite business leader and why?

A: Martin Eakes is a community organizer who has created an economic development strategy that combines business principles with a self-help strategy. He creates bridges among traditional financial institutions, government and nonprofit organizations in order to forge new systems that foster fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity.

Eakes’ organization, a community-based, nonprofit group called Self-Help, was started in 1980. Its credit union was capitalized in 1984 with a bake sale that raised $77 as its first equity. Today, Self-Help is a multi-billion dollar financial institution with offices throughout the nation. The organization welcomes customers who have been underserved by most other banks; yet Self-Help’s loss ratio is lower than or comparable to that of commercial banks. By demonstrating that such loans are successful, Eakes is leading the charge to change the face of banking in the U.S., so that sustainable economic potential can be part of the lives of many more citizens.

Q: Who is your favorite leader of any kind and why?

A: Regardless of one’s faith or beliefs, I believe there is no greater example of the lasting legacy of true leadership than Jesus in the fact that he is the historical “leader” that is most often quoted and most often modeled after.

Q: What is the best leadership advice you’ve received?

A: Take a vacation. If I thought that my organization could not survive without me, then I have not done an effective job building the right team.

Q: What is the best leadership advice you could give?

A: See previous question.

Q: What is the best book on business or leadership that you’ve read and why?

A: “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. Cows, after you’ve seen one or two or 10, are boring. Godin defines a Purple Cow as anything phenomenal, counterintuitive, exciting and remarkable. Every day consumers (investors, donors, and borrowers for us) ignore a lot of brown cows, but you can bet they won’t ignore a Purple Cow. Every day SCCLF is striving to inherently be the Purple Cow.

Q: What other business publications do you regularly read?

A: Charleston, Columbia and Greenville Business Journals and Forbes Magazine.

Q: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader at your business?

A: Hiring.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing business leaders today?

A: Attracting and hiring great employees and being able to pay a competitive national salary in an unaffordable market.

Q: What was your biggest mistake as a leader and what did it teach you?

A: Hiring the wrong person for a position. It taught me that the most important aspect of my job is setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals for my employees.

Q: What was your biggest success as a leader and what did it teach you?

A: Hiring the right person for a position. It taught me that great employees are internally motivated and, unless the work connects with their heart, they will always be focused on just doing their job and not on growing the organization and their position within the organization.

Q: What are you doing to grow the next leader in your company?

A: We have identified the next leader in our organization and have invested in professional development including the Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance.

Q: How do you define a great business?

A: A great business does good socially by investing in its local community while doing well financially.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about doing business in this region?

A: Having a broader shared sense of purpose and direction, such as the One Region plan.

Q: What is your least favorite thing about doing business in this region?

A: Regional strategic planning that lacks a specific focus or cluster on small, local business support and development.

Q: Name one thing government could do to help your business?

A: Be consistent in planning and zoning ordinances across the region.

Q: Name one thing government could stop doing to help your business?

A: Commissioning studies and plans and then not implementing the recommendations.