Since its inception in 2000, ACE | Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs has served more than 2,000 entrepreneurs in Georgia, about half of whom represent small business owners who are regularly unserved or underserved in the commercial lending marketplace. ACE serves 68 counties in Georgia, including all of North Georgia and the Atlanta-metro area. In their more than 20 years of serving the state, ACE has delivered more than $125 million in capital to women and minority entrepreneurs and low-to-moderate income small-business owners, creating and/or retaining more than 14,000 jobs in the process.
When CornerSquare Community Capital launched in 2020, ACE was one of the first of its CDFI partners. “ACE has been doing incredible things for entrepreneurs in Georgia, and their partnership from the start of this program has been invaluable,” says CornerSquare Executive Director Armeer Kenchen. “Not only have we learned from the folks at ACE, our partnership has allowed us both to expand our organizations’ capacities and support more entrepreneurs across our footprint.” As a resource for the CDFI sector, CornerSquare purchases participations in loans made from partner organizations like ACE, which helps offset some lending risk and allows the partner to keep more cash on hand so that they can make additional loans to entrepreneurs who struggle with capital access. “Working with CornerSquare allows us to entertain larger deals, which is increasingly important as we are grappling with the economic effects of COVID-19,” says ACE Senior Credit Officer Eric Swilling. “Plus, this partnership helps reduce the risk exposure for all parties involved: ACE, CornerSquare, and most importantly, the business owner.”
In addition to providing capital for entrepreneurs, ACE also offers vital technical assistance with business advisors to support clients and help them grow and expand their businesses. “For a business to truly thrive, we can’t just invest in commercial capital, we have to invest in human capital as well,” says Swilling.
For Amanda Thompson Wright, owner of CrossFit Lanier, ACE’s investment in her as a business owner, beyond simply the capital for her business, made all the difference. “I had bad experiences with banks in the past and I was really jaded,” she says. “After facing sexism and harassment from other lenders and attorneys, it was refreshing to work with a team who respected me and that I could count on.” Amanda says that she wishes that she found ACE sooner, but is excited for this next chapter in her life as an entrepreneur. “CrossFit Lanier changed my life, and now that I own it, I get the chance to change the lives of people in my community.” Read Amanda’s story here.
To learn more about partnering with CornerSquare, or to find a participating CDFI near you, visit cornersquare.org.