Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) is a financial support system that provides diverse small business owners across the U.S. with access to capital, networks, and coaching. For the last nearly three decades, AOF has been a driving force in advocating for a more inclusive financial system that helps entrepreneurs build and sustain their businesses, create jobs, and improve communities. Over 90% of AOF’s clients are people of color, women, and/or low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs.
According to the organization’s CEO, Luz Urrutia, AOF meets small business owners where they are, offering working capital loans as small as $5,000 and up to $250,000. Most importantly, says Urrutia, AOF deploys flexible underwriting that goes beyond credit score to take into account cash flow and character. In Georgia, last fiscal year AOF disbursed $3.2 million in loans to 171 business owners in a variety of industries, including professional services, health and medical, transportation and food and beverage. The majority of those Georgia-based loan clients identified as people of color and women.
“We understand that small business owners — especially women and people of color — face tremendous barriers to accessing financing,” she says. “And that’s why we offer flexible loan options with competitive interest rates and transparent terms.” All of this, together, makes AOF a leading choice for diverse entrepreneurs looking to strengthen and expand their business operations.
But AOF is not only a lender. It also provides free access to one-on-one business and financial advising in both English and Spanish, as well as digital resources to help small business owners navigate challenges they are facing. For example, AOF’s online Coaching Hub enables business owners to instantly book time with expert coaches across the country who can help them address a range of business issues, including how to get certified as a minority- or woman-owned business and bid on lucrative procurement contracts. Last fiscal year, AOF is proud to have served more than 250 small business owners in Georgia with coaching. We also conduct educational webinars on small business topics, including certification, that reach a broad national audience.
Accion Opportunity Fund is different from other lenders because it wants to fundamentally change the financial landscape through policies that benefit all. To that end, AOF leaders have testified in front of Congress and advocated to increase small business lending transparency, modernize anti-redlining legislation, and measure and report on lending demographics so that the cracks in our current system are exposed. AOF is also one of the few community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that publishes original research examining small business financing gaps and the challenges of diverse entrepreneurs.
Luz Urrutia sees the greatest potential in the partnerships AOF has developed to connect more underinvested business owners with responsible capital — such as the organization’s membership in GMSDC. “No one entity can close the small business financing gap alone,” she says. “We believe innovative public-private partnerships are a key model for scaling these solutions and ultimately building a more inclusive financial system in this country.” In Georgia, those critical partners include the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, Invest Atlanta, Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, among others.
For minority suppliers seeking support to navigate challenges and fuel growth, AOF is here to help. Go to AOFund.org to learn about capital and coaching options tailored to your business.