Incoming Board Chair
U.S. Network, Accion
Chief Executive Officer
U.S. Network, Accion
Since Accion began lending in the U.S. more than two decades ago, we have been passionate about ensuring that entrepreneurs of all backgrounds have access to the opportunities and resources they need to pursue their dreams. Yet, until recently, our ability to measure progress toward our mission has been limited. In the early days, our primary means of evaluation were limited to loan portfolio numbers, such as number of loans and amount of capital deployed. We were not satisfied with these numbers alone, because we know that gaining access to financial services is only meaningful if that access places an individual on a path to greater financial stability and improved quality of life. Over time, with support from organizations like the Aspen Institute, we have added measures such as business survival, revenue growth, and job creation.
These efforts helped to paint a picture of the broad outcomes of our work, but they didn’t do justice to the holistic impacts that we observed every day in our clients’ inspiring stories of growth and resilience. We needed a disciplined and academically rigorous way to tell that story. This prompted a partnership with fellow mission-based lender Opportunity Fund to launch a longitudinal, mixed-methods study of the impact of our services nationwide. This research, conducted by Harder+Company Community Research between 2015 and 2017, was made possible through lead funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co., with additional support from S&P Global.
This research demonstrates that the entrepreneurs we serve are thriving, even two to three years after receiving their loan. When asked where Accion’s services had the greatest impact, business owners most often cite their sense of confidence in their ability to achieve their goals. They are making progress toward greater financial stability, resulting in reduced finance-related stress.
Findings also revealed five distinct typologies of entrepreneurs, each facing unique challenges and opportunities in their business journeys. This underscores the importance of partnering with entrepreneurs to write their own success stories – recognizing that success has different definitions for those who prioritize financial stability, creative freedom, or other personal goals over business expansion.
Research like this highlights the crucial role that Accion’s services play in the broader small business ecosystem. The data shows that our lending and advising services help entrepreneurs build confidence and financial resilience, characteristics we recognize in the stories of our clients as they pursue resources and opportunities to grow their businesses, provide meaningful employment prospects for their neighbors, provide benefits to those they employ and build a better future for their children. These strong, confident, and resilient entrepreneurs are fundamentally important to building strong communities and a strong society. In 2018 and beyond, we are committed to continuing to place the business owners we serve at the center of our work to innovate and expand our impact in communities across the U.S.
Incoming Board Chair
U.S. Network, Accion
U.S. Network, Accion
At the close of 2017, we accepted Brad Henderson’s resignation as Chairman of the Board and welcomed Anna Dodson as our new Chair. Brad’s work with Accion began long before the Accion U.S. Network office was formed. As a member of the Board of Directors of Accion in Chicago, Brad marshalled a remarkably talented group of Boston Consulting Group staff to help illuminate Accion’s opportunity in the U.S., to navigate the many hurdles a collaboration such as our national network inevitably faces, and to shape our operating model. His wisdom and his patience came in equal measure. His contributions are too numerous and meaningful to recount here, but this is an appropriate place to say thank you. Our sincerest thank you for your service to Accion, Brad!
Since 1991, Accion member organizations have disbursed more than 64,000 loans totaling more than $570 Million. Highlights from across Accion’s U.S. Network in 2017 are summarized below.
Accion and fellow mission-based lender Opportunity Fund partnered to launch a multi-year research effort to understand the holistic impact of our small business lending services. This research, conducted by Harder+Company Community Research between 2015 – 2017, was made possible through lead funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co., with additional support from S&P Global. The study’s findings reinforce the urgency to bring mission-based small business lending to scale, thereby providing the critical service to all entrepreneurs who stand to benefit.
Oba Steel Fabricating
Pedro Obando’s business serves his two main joys in life: creativity and family. “I always tell my daughters, you have to do what you love,” he explained. “For me, welding is not a job. Welding is creativity and innovation.” Pedro takes pride in the impact that his business has made not only for his own family, but also for his employees and their families. “I love being able to create jobs. I am having a direct positive impact on a family’s income. My employees always come first.” Pedro learned about Accion at the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a moment he characterizes as "divine intervention." With his loan, Pedro purchased a forklift, increasing his capacity to serve more clients and grow his business. He also gained a priceless support network. "Through Accion, I have had the opportunity to connect and grow personally through the many events they involve me in.”
A Polished Work
Frustrated with the lack of quality salon experiences in her neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Monica decided to take a leap and pursue her passion for nails. After taking night classes at a cosmetology school and putting most of her savings into buying a space, Monica needed a loan to buy furniture and equipment. In addition to her loan, Accion’s network has provided Monica with opportunities for mentorship and coaching, as well as opportunities to support other business owners like her. A Polished Work employs five nail technicians and has grown to be a premier destination for quality salon experiences in Chicago. “The most meaningful part is the fact that our clients look forward to their visits in the salon.” From organizing holiday gift drives, to providing local job training opportunities, to donating free nail services to underserved high school students, Monica is proud of the sense of community she has created through the salon.
Jose Yepez, Robert Yepez, & Ramiro Salas
Calexico Brewing Company
Calexico Brewing Company prides itself on collaboration. Whether it’s with community members, local nonprofits, or brewers along the U.S.-Mexico border, the brewery is in the business of bringing people together. The first brewery to open in Calexico, the business has quickly become a staple of the community – from hosting regular meet-ups, to partnering with a local nonprofit for pet adoptions, to fundraising for a children’s cancer nonprofit. The Calexico team received a $35,000 loan from Accion in July 2017, made possible with support from the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program, to renovate their new tap room and purchase brewing equipment. During this pivotal time for their business, they benefited from additional guidance and support from industry professionals through a local Brewing the American Dream speed coaching event and personal, one-on-one phone calls with the Sam Adams brewing team in Boston. That guidance prepared them for their grand opening, which attracted more than double the expected number of attendees and was such a hit that the brewery sold out of beer.
Roman Music Therapy Services
Meredith discovered the healing power of music at the age of two, as she struggled to cope with her grandfather’s passing. Her decision to scale her business, Roman Music Therapy Services, from a private practice to a staff of 17 and counting, was about meeting a growing need. “It’s not just about me or my little business, it’s about really having an impact on lives in a community.” As the demand for her services grew, so did the need for capital that Meredith couldn’t provide on her own. “It’s easy to doubt yourself as an entrepreneur, and to have that vote of confidence from Accion meant more than the money did—it really gave me the strength to move forward after such trying times.” Roman Music Services has grown to be a national leader in the music therapy field, demonstrating the importance of music in strengthening communities across the country.