Accion is proud to announce that Anna Dodson, Partner at Goodwin Procter LLP, has been named Board Chair for the U.S. Network. Anna has contributed her passion, knowledge and commitment to Accion for over a decade. We sat down with her to learn more about her commitment to small businesses and her vision for the future.
How did you first learn about Accion, and what inspired you to get involved?
My first experience with Accion was in 2001. Accion contacted Goodwin to assist a woman who owned a corner grocery store in Brighton, MA to refinance a loan from a “loan shark.” A colleague and I were able to support that client in obtaining a release from her prior lender.
The project tapped into my strong interest and background in development and women’s studies. I believe that empowering people means, in part, that they have access to capital on transparent terms. I have stayed involved with Accion because they provide low and moderate income (“LMI”) business owners access to capital, seeking innovative and cutting-edge ways to do so.
What inspired you to take on this new leadership role within Accion?
There is a robust alternative financing market for small businesses in the U.S. that offers a range of products on widely different terms. In 2001 it was difficult for LMI businesses to even get a loan, but now the question is access to what kind of capital, on what terms and whether the business owner will have control over the future of her business.
Accion in the U.S. is working to deliver access to capital on terms that support financial health and stability for small businesses and business owners and empowers them. Over time, we are looking to do it at scale. We are launching a strategic refresh. We have wonderful resources as we develop our strategy, thanks to Accion global and supporters both on and outside of the Board. We have learned a lot, but there is still much to learn and do and the need has never been greater.
You mentioned that the greatest challenge facing small business owners today is not necessarily access to capital, but access to capital that enables them to build financial stability. Is there anything else that you would say really keeps you up at night about the challenges facing small business owners in the US?
Entrepreneurs are risk takers; that makes them special. Some are entrepreneurs by choice, some by necessity and some by a combination. No matter the reason, an entrepreneur’s business health – including the ability to take risks and weather uncertain times is closely tied to the financial health of her family and employees. Although over 99% of businesses in the U.S. are small businesses, the number of people who rely on them for their and their family’s financial health is underestimated.
From your perspective, how has Accion evolved from when you first became involved in 2007 to where it is today?
In 2007, Accion, like many lenders, was a brick and mortar operation. Today I see Accion as a mission-based financial institution. It provides access to capital to LMI businesses that generally do not have access on the terms Accion offers. Accion’s role is increasingly promoting financial health and being a connector between small businesses and financial services – taking a more holistic approach and collaborating more to deliver more than loans to small business.
You and your fellow board members have helped Accion move through complicated change management efforts. What keeps you motivated to push forward when the going gets tough?
The Network’s leadership and staff, the strength of fellow Board members, the CEOs of member organizations and their tireless commitment inspire me. We have been through a challenging modernization project and all the change that brings. Accion has a culture and a temperament of listening and patience in the face of the changes innovation brings, and of being proactive in facing those surprises realistically. That is impressive and gives me confidence that we can face new challenges.
Where do you hope to see Accion in five years?
I hope that when I visit cities across the U.S. I find vibrant, diverse neighborhood businesses and see indications that Accion has provided capital and supported those businesses and thus those communities. I hope to see Accion in the community, standing with diverse business owners, helping them to create their communities through access to capital and, more broadly, empowering business women and men in owning and operating their businesses.
Do you have anything to add?
For me, powerful small businesses are really about empowered people and communities: small business financial health, community health and the strength of our civil society. Through Accion, we have the opportunity to work for a world in which we will have more, and more diverse, women and men entrepreneurs and small business owners who take incredible pride in the work they do and who are advocates for themselves, their children and their neighborhoods.