Thomas Schumpert Jr. approaches every would-be customer as if it were a big corporation borrowing $100 million. He wants to know everything -- who the business owner's suppliers and creditors are, how often he balances a checkbook, and how cash flow is managed.

Mr. Schumpert's method belies his mission. As head of the Massachusetts Minority Enterprise Investment Corp., the largest loan he has made is for $225,000. His mandate, in fact, is to finance credit-worthy small business in poor communities.

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