This month’s guest blogger is Sandra Font, director of the ACE Women’s Business Center (WBC). Sandra writes about the work Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) is doing to help business owners and entrepreneurs thrive. ACE is part of AWF’s Women’s Pathway to Success Program and is the 2019 Sue Wieland Embracing Possibility Award honoree. The award is a special grant given annually to one of our grantee partner organizations. To learn more about the award, ACE, and Shining Example honoree Juanisa Kimbrough, click here.
Juanisa Kimbrough and her husband, John, were at a crossroads with their childcare business. “Our financial situation was tough,” explained Kimbrough. “Ms. Niecy’s started small, but then grew quickly and we were struggling to make ends meet. After we worked to clean up our credit, we looked for a loan to expand from our home operation into a facility. No one — not even our own bank — would give us a loan.” Then the Kimbroughs came across a brochure from Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE). “Thank God we found ACE. They were the only ones to trust and invest in us.”
ACE grows small businesses – with Capital, Coaching and Connections! We help our borrowers create and grow sustainable businesses, which generate jobs and helps strengthen families and communities. Since inception, ACE has loaned more than $70 million to almost 1000 Georgia businesses and impacted more than 8,200 jobs.
Our Women’s Business Center, the educational arm of ACE, works to empower women, people of color, and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs through financial training. Services, provided both in English and Spanish, include one-on-one business consultations, small business series and workshops, monthly lunch and learn webinars, online resources for education and business plan development, an annual business expo, pre-loan assistance, and connections to other resources.
ACE’s Speed Coaching is our signature event annually. Business owners meet one-on-one with at least three industry leaders and expert coaches in 30-minute increments to discuss strategies and solutions for their businesses. It’s a fun-filled evening of learning and networking!
Since its inception in 2015, the WBC has assisted over 5,000 individuals through consultations and training. And last year alone, ACE provided more than $4.7 million in capital to women-owned businesses.
To update you on the Kimbroughs, they received initial funding to buy their day care facility and open Ms. Niecy’s Home Away from Home Learning Center. They have since come back for two additional loans – to purchase adjacent buildings for a pre-K program and after school program. Today, Ms. Niecy’s operates a staff of 21 and offers weekly child care programs to children from six weeks to 12 years old, including Georgia Pre-K, after school, summer camp and food-service programs, as well as a Ms. Niecy’s Scholarship to help families subsidize their parent fees.
Building meaningful and long-term relationships with our clients is vital at ACE. We know that partnering with our entrepreneurs and providing access to quality resources throughout the lifetime of their loans will help strengthen their operations, achieve growth and improve financial success.
Sandra Font, director of the ACE Women’s Business Center (WBC), joined the organization in May 2017 after an already successful career helping others. She has more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit industry, including 11 years at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, her most previous role being interim president. Sandra’s commitment to serving others is best exemplified in her relationships with WBC clients. She meets regularly with clients who want to start a business and provides consultation about the steps they can take to begin the entrepreneurial journey effectively. Sandra is also a connector, in that she does whatever is necessary to assist a client with the specific needs she has. Born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, she is bilingual and bicultural, which is helpful in assisting the Hispanic clients in their native Spanish when providing consultations.