If art imitates life, then the words of Charles Dickens reflect today’s times when he wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Throughout the pandemic, Ascendus strived to protect its staff, clients, and organization as we navigated the once-in-a-century pandemic. Our 2021 results show that we served more small business owners with more capital than at any time in our storied history. We achieved these record-breaking results because of the financial support of our partners like you, the dedication of our staff and board members, and the one-time events of federal, state, and local grant-making programs. We remained focused on the mission and energized by a vision that seeks to create a world of financial ascension (and not merely inclusion) for all.
Operationally, we achieved a stellar year because of our focus on agility, collaboration, and innovation for impact. For example, in 2021, we launched two special purpose vehicle (SPV) programs that serve sixteen (16) states within eight (8) weeks of one another. The inspiration for these programs was the innovation created through The New York Forward Loan Fund that we launched in 2020. Importantly, these efforts all required the collaboration of multiple parties, including other Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) such as Ascendus. On the innovation side, Ascendus launched its first working capital line of credit offer to support small business owners’ short-term, seasonal, and non-capital needs. We are one of the few organizations to offer such a product in the industry.
In 2022, we renewed and expanded our leadership. Laura Miller and Colleen Galvin assumed their roles as our new board chair and vice-chair, respectively, at the fiduciary board level.
Strategically, we will reposition Ascendus from relief to recovery efforts in 2022. We will start by increasing the number of eligible applicants by modernizing our credit risk scorecard. Then, we will introduce new financial products and services uniquely designed for our target audience. Finally, we will establish a monitoring system that will track our clients’ credit, cash flow, and financial health to measure their advancement toward financial health.
At Ascendus, we believe in the power of “UP,” which means we understand that growing a business is a way to improve life, care for family, and contribute to the community. With your support, we will strive to ensure our clients continue to experience “the best of times.”
Ascendus empowers low- to moderate-income small business owners with access to capital and financial education.
Ascendus believes in the bold vision of creating financial ascension for those who have been systemically excluded from financial opportunity. For over 30 years, we’ve provided small business owners – primarily minorities, women, and immigrants with the tools to move up, improve their lives, care for their families, and contribute to their communities.
We are guided by our vision of “creating financial ascension for all,” achieved by serving certain people in specific places that need us most. We are inspired by our lived values of adaptability, dedication, empathy, inclusion, integrity, and passion.
We led our industry in pioneering innovative relief and recovery efforts.
We focused on business survival, and estimate that almost 94% of Ascendus businesses remain in healthy operations despite the historic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic
We focused on job retention, and provided employment for over 960 individuals
We doubled our 2020 lending, and tripled our 2019 lending, allowing more resources to be disbursed in under-resourced communities than ever before in our history
Our impact in communities of color rose as entrepreneurs of color received lending at 16% higher than 2020
Ascendus provides small business owners with the innovative capital they need to start, stabilize, or expand their business and build their credit.
Each client is paired with a dedicated loan consultant, from whom they receive one-on-one counseling to keep their business open and thriving.
Clients have access to networks of support that provide them tools to grow businesses, create jobs, and provide for their household and communities.
With access to capital and financial education, Ascendus clients build financial resiliency and unlock access to financial opportunity for their families.
Our strategic focus on providing access to capital, financial education, and economic opportunity allowed us to meet the needs within our affinity groups and core geographies.
24 total states served
64% low- to moderate-income households
73% entrepreneurs of color
60% Black or Latinx entrepreneurs
In October, we introduced our first ever revolving loan product – a Line of Credit – created for businesses that need flexibility on borrowing and repayment schedules, like restaurants, seasonal businesses, and more. As of June 2022, we have delivered $675,000 to 56 small businesses in NYC.
– Kymme Williams-Davis, Bushwick Grind Café
Created in partnership with the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, we delivered $775,000 in zero interest loans to 19 small businesses through the Restaurant Futures Loan Fund. These loans build businesses and engineer equitable conditions for employees of our clients.
We remained nimble, bringing transformative change to the communities who most need our help
54% of Black and 41% of Latinx individuals have low to no credit scores, compared to 37% of their white counterparts – impacting their ability to access credit.
Only 26% of Black business owners and 32% of Latinx business owners receive the full amount of financing sought, compared to 54% for their white counterparts – impacting their ability to launch and grow.
92% of small business owners say mentorship is invaluable to small business success, however less than 40% of Black owned businesses and less than 34% of Latinx owned businesses have access to mentorship – impacting their financial health and ability to stay open.
The number of small businesses we supported, nationwide
The amount of loan capital we disbursed to 2,138 individuals – going above and beyond all previous records of service
The number of hours of direct counseling in areas of business credit, managing cashflow, how to manage debt, and much more
The number of businesses we reached through 31 workshops conducted nationwide, on topics related to financial normalization, pandemic relief products, business financing, and more
– Marquita Kelly, NHK Electrical Contractors
We were awarded a prestigious $1.8 million grant to support economic relief in communities affected by COVID-19 from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Rapid Response Program because of our capacity and ability to get funds to struggling small businesses. Through the fund, we quickly deployed $800,000 to 116 small businesses in 2021 and disbursed the balance in 2022.
Through the Paycheck Protection Program, we provided $33 million and 2,300 loans – including $26 million deployed in 2021 alone. With an average loan size of just $14,000, over 70% of clients were sole proprietors and 70% were entrepreneurs of color. Of those loans, 93% have already been fully forgiven by the SBA.
– John Sosa, CT App
– Javier Zamora, SushiKong
Modeled after the New York Forward Loan Program, the Southern Opportunity and Resilience Fund brought together 15 mission lenders and industry leaders to provide COVID-19 Relief in the South. One of the most prolific lenders through the program, we disbursed $3.1 million to 79 small businesses through the program.
– Sayblee Darsale at Sayblee Products
The ‘Us’ in Ascendus: We worked with our partners to serve more clients than ever before in our history.
The country’s first COVID-19 Relief SPV Program to launch, we worked with public and private partners, as well as four other CDFIs, to deliver the blueprint of capital relief for small businesses. We provided $6.1 million to 161 New York small businesses in 2021, and replicated its success in seventeen other states, including the Southeast, California, and Washington.
– Claudia Gaviria,
Creative Little Hands Daycare
– Alisha Weiss, Skyhawk
Created in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Small Business Flex fund allows for competitive interest rates and flexibility on spending. We grew our footprint in the Pacific Northwest and delivered $2.3 million to 33 small businesses through the Small Business Flex Fund.
Through support from Wells Fargo, we quickly stood up a relief program for small businesses in Massachusetts when there were no other loan relief programs available in the state. We delivered $1.7 million to 74 entrepreneurs through the Open for Business Program, 100% of whom were entrepreneurs of color.
– Juan Arroyave,
Kikos Coffee and Tea
4 Star Charity
Guidestar Platinum Seal
CDFI Fund’s Financial Assistance (FA) Award
SBA South Florida District Office Mission Based Lender Award
SBA Microlender of the Year Award in MA
With your support and collaboration, we can provide the resources needed to help our clients on the road toward financial ascension. These resources were especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be necessary during the recovery. Thank you for supporting small business owners and their communities.
Bank of America Charitable Foundation
Berman Aries Family Charitable Fund
Boston Private Bank and Trust Company
Brooklyn Community Foundation
Cambridge Savings Bank
Capital One Bank
Comerica Charitable Foundation
Community Development Financial Institutions Fund
Community Reinvestment Fund
Community Wealth Partners
Dime Community Bank
Eastern Bank Foundation
Empire State Development
Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
FJCA Foundation of Philanthropic Funds
Friedman Family Foundation
HSBC Bank USA
Hyde & Watson Foundation
Investors Bank Charitable Foundation
Margaret E. Senturia Fund
Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation
Metropolitan Commercial Bank
Moses Kimball Fund
NYC Department of Small Business Services
Opportunity Finance Network
Paul and Edith Babson Foundation
Rita J. & Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation
Robin Hood Foundation
Sterling National Bank
TD Charitable Foundation
The Boston Beer Company
The Clark Foundation
The Coca Cola Company
The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida
The JPMorgan Chase Foundation
The Mizuho USA Foundation
US Small Business Administration
Ventress Family Foundation
Wells Fargo Foundation
Alan Cody and Edith Moricz
Ashley Wessier and Sherri Lane
Edward Van Gundy
Fazeela and Shameer Yasin*
Henry, Catherine, and Will Lanier
Jessica Daniels and Paul Blackborow
Julia and Harold Bordwin
Man Chung Yung
Max Myers and Victoria Richardson*
Michael and Claudine Henry
Paul and Marieta Quintero*
Russell and Linda Gee
Sherry and David Cook*
Shirley and Timothy Blancke
Suzanne and Paul Lipsky
Thomas and Susana McDermott
William and Sandra Rosenfeld*
*thank you to our recurring monthly sustaining donors