On Thursday, April 28th, The Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), Women’s Business Center (WBC), Savannah Region celebrated one year in Savannah with an official in-person, grand opening. The Savannah office is one of two locations in the state of Georgia and the second to open after the Atlanta Metro chapter. The center is a division of ACE, a Georgia 501(c)(3) nonprofit and community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides capital, coaching, and connections to help borrowers create and grow sustainable businesses that generate jobs. The Women’s Business Center exists to empower women, minorities, and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs through financial education and training. A few of the resources and assistance ACE WBC provides are workshops and events, on-demand webinars, and one-on-one coaching.
The anniversary event brought together the Savannah small business community to highlight the work and accomplishments of the local ACE, WBC team and share plans for the upcoming year. Nita Penn, who is the Director of the ACE, WBC, Savannah Region, shared snippets from the past year including what led to a successful first year operating in Savannah. Penn noted that she invested heavily in intentional conversations with clients to determine their needs so she could best help them. “The point of the ACE, WBC is to be a resource to give businesses more access to capital and that’s what we achieved. We focus on coaching and connections. From a business development standpoint, this involved navigating the small business community and figuring out who was the properly aligned partners as they relate to the needs of [our] clients, the audience,” shared Penn.
Present for the event were Grace Fricks (Founder, President and CE of the ACE WBC), Ray Pennie (Chief of Business Advisory Services at ACE, WBC), Sandra Font (Director of the ACE, WBC, Metro Atlanta), and Brandi Simpkins (Program Coordinator at the ACE, WBC, Savannah Region). Fricks launched ACE in 1997 and started the organization by giving “$5k loans to Applachian women in North Georiga.” She shared that, today in 2022, 95% of every loan ACE lends is to women, entrepreneurs of color, and entrepreneurs of low income. She also announced that as of April 28th, that ACE would be able to provide lending capital to veterans.
The ACE WBC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Featured speakers at the event included Terri Denison (District Director at the SBA, Georgia District Office) and Allen Thomas (Regional Administrator for Region 4 of the SBA). Also present were Erin Tindell (Public Information Officer at the SBA) and Patrice Doizer (Economic Development Specialist, Georgia District Officer at the SBA). All came to support the new Savannah chapter and share about the importance of ACE, WBC’s work to provide equitable training and support that entrepreneurs need to succeed.
The afternoon invited area entrepreneurs who had been successful through the Savannah chapter’s training and assistance to share their stories. From a handyman business to a notary public business and more, local small companies gave testimonies of their experiences working with the ACE, WBC, Savannah Region. “In this year, I am happy to see that the clients that have actively engaged in consulting and programming through the ACE, WBC, Savannah Region have completely changed the trajectory of their business,” shared Penn.
When asked what she’d learned from working with clients in the past year, Penn expressed that she wants businesses to not be discouraged when they hear ‘no,’ but rather to focus on strategizing for their business and finding the support they actually need to get where they want to be: “I definitely would say to not be discouraged by the no and to understand who and where the no is coming from. Sometimes that no is what you need to get to that yes so you can get the sound counsel you need.”
Learn more about the ACE, WBC, Savannah region at https://aceloans.org/wbc-savannah/. Check out their May 18th event “How to Get a Yes with the Small Business Assistance Corporation” by visiting https://aceloans.org/events/how-to-get-a-yes-with-the-small-business-assistance-corporation/.