letter from the CEO

In reflecting on today’s times and assessing whether true economic progress had been achieved in the U.S. over the past thirty years, we concluded that it was time to embrace a bolder, newer vision for our organization. This new vision is based on the evidence that financial inclusion is no longer enough and that instead, we need to aim higher by seeking to create a world of financial ascension for all.

Our bold new vision inspired our new name, “Ascendus.” The name stems from the word “ascend,” which means to rise, combined with the word “us,” which reflects our belief in collective and collaborative action to truly empower entrepreneurs and improve lives.

To achieve our new vision, we understood that our work must remain focused on certain people in certain places because unfortunately, opportunity in our country is not equally distributed. Our work will focus on serving people and places that need us most.

For this reason, we are proud that 2019 represented a high-water mark for our mission; the greatest dollar volume of lending in 11 years! However, beyond the quantity, we are most proud of the quality of our work because it remained focused on people and places, including:

  • $1.2 million in capital to over 100 small business owners in the South Bronx, one of the poorest regions in the country, through the Entrepreneur of Color Fund program; and
  • $1.8 million in capital to over 130 home-based childcare providers through our Childcare Provider Initiative, which primarily supports women business owners in low- to moderate- income neighborhoods who are often shut out of mainstream financial support.

Our mission momentum and focus continued through the COVID-19 pandemic where we have provided $10.7 million in urgent relief to 890 small business owners since March 2020. This support has enabled them to not only survive the pandemic, but to build financial resiliency to outlast it.

Embracing a bold new vision, rebranding an organization and staying focused on mission during a pandemic are not easy orders; in fact, they are very, very difficult. However, our board and staff have successfully persisted and progressed because we are buoyed by the ethos of six shared values: adaptability, dedication, empathy, inclusion, integrity and passion.

As we write the newest chapter of our organizational history, we welcome you to join us on a journey whose destination is the empowerment of entrepreneurs, the improvement of lives and the achievement of both, together.

who is Ascendus?


/ əˈsend/ verb

to rise, advance, and make one’s way up

Stemming from the word Ascend, meaning “to rise, advance, and make one’s way up,” and combined with the word us, to represent the collaborative efforts of our allied success and the positive impact our work has on communities, Ascendus highlights a renewed focus on our central goal: empowering entrepreneurs and improving lives, together.

Our name represents a bold, fundamental shift in vision from financial inclusion to creating a world of financial ascension for all.

For 30 years, Ascendus has worked to address the nationwide issue of financial inequity by empowering low-to-moderate income business owners with access to capital and support.

who we serve

We broadened our programs to reach an increased number of individuals of color, women, and immigrants.

our values

Ascendus is guided by six core values:

We create community. We value the contributions of every person.


We are innovators; we continually improve ourselves and our world. We take risks to do so.


We walk in others’ shoes. We know that true understanding must occur at an emotional and intellectual level.


We earn trust by making promises – and keeping them.


We are proud about being Ascenders; we work to honor our values in everything we do.


We give 100% at all times. We are committed to Ascendus, our mission and our clients.

who we serve




business owners of color




low-to-moderate income (LMI)

A national organization, our work is concentrated in key markets along the East Coast.


New York


Southeast U.S.


New England


Central and West U.S.

with the help of Ascendus:

95% of client businesses remain open 2 to 3 years after their loan.

Clients are able to create and/or sustain 2.9 jobs with each loan.

Clients are able to provide an average hourly wage of $14.80 for their employees in comparison to the average minimum wage of $8.50.

69% of clients feel in control of their financial situation and 73% of clients feel able to handle their financial future.

addressing the need

Piggy Bank Icon
access to capital

Black and Latinx entrepreneurs have a loan approval rate of just 29% and 50%, compared to 60% for white entrepreneurs.

financial cushion

Half of all small businesses hold a cash buffer of less than a month. 94% of businesses in majority Black communities and 89% of businesses in majority Latinx communities have fewer than 14 cash buffer days.

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financial health

In April 2020, the financial health of 37% of Black-owned businesses and 31% of Latinx-owned businesses was found to be “at risk.”


In 2019, the average annual revenue of women-owned businesses was just half of the average annual revenue of businesses owned by men.

2019 in numbers


loans to small business owners


in capital provided


more than last year


more than 5 years ago


new businesses funded


existing businesses secured or expanded


entrepreneurs provided with guidance and support


jobs created and sustained

In the three decades since our founding, we have lent $200 million to more than 22,000 small businesses nationwide.

O&E Childcare

“Today, it feels great to finally see the fruition of a vision from so many years ago.”

Childcare Provider Initiative Expansion

In 2018, we launched our Childcare Provider Initiative with seed funding from Citi Community Development. The program was created to meet the needs of home-based childcare providers, who belong to an industry predominantly comprised of women of color in low-to moderate income neighborhoods.

In 2019, we expanded the program to all five NYC boroughs, launched pilot programs in Florida and Boston, and continued to deepen our roots in the program’s pilot area of the South Bronx, where the poverty rate of 27% is more than double the national rate.

We also provided 130 childcare providers with more than $1.8 million in small business loans and support. Since its launch, the program has served nearly 200 providers with over $2.6 million in support.

Of these childcare providers, 97% were women, 100% belonged to minority racial/ethnic groups, 65% qualified as low-to moderate-income, and 62% were located in the Bronx.

O&E Childcare

Inspired by the sense of opportunity she was given as a child through her school’s music program, Elizabeth Galloway founded O&E childcare in 2013 with her mother, Olean Ferguson, to give children in her Bronx neighborhood the same sense of possibilities. O&E Childcare offers activities such as music and exercise to boost the self-confidence of the children who attend.

With their loan, Elizabeth and Olean were able to purchase new and improved equipment for the children, including musical instruments, which enabled them to increase enrollment.

Today O&E Childcare continues to serve its community by ensuring employment for working parents and reliable, educational childcare for their children

supporting food and beverage entrepreneurs

Ascendus has a long history of supporting small business owners in the Food and Beverage industry. Over the last decade, Ascendus has provided 681 loans totaling more than $8.3 million to food and beverage entrepreneurs in communities all along the East Coast, creating and/or retaining approximately 1,950 jobs in their local communities.

In 2019, we hosted three speed coaching events in our core markets in partnership with Sam Adams’ Brewing the American Dream program – supporting 130 small business owners with networking opportunities and business planning and advice from industry experts. Additionally, we provided 15 food and beverage small business owners with $657,000 in capital and 70 entrepreneurs with business mentorship through the partnership.

In November 2020, we announced an exciting new partnership with the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation to restart food and beverage businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to re-imagine how to provide fair wages, gender equity, racial justice, and mental health for workers in the future.

COVID-19 relief & recovery

As the COVID-19 health crisis developed in March 2020, Ascendus quickly mobilized a three-pronged approach to adapt and respond to the crisis:

First, we ensured the health and safety of our staff by moving our day-to-day operations fully remote, and since March 13 we’ve continued to operate seamlessly and from the safety of our homes.

Second, we met the needs of our clients by providing $10.7 million in urgent relief to 890 small business owners since March 2020 (including $5.9M of Payroll Protection Program – PPP – loans) and over $30M in direct grants to over 2,200 small business owners.

Finally, we protected the organization by growing new grant and debt capital support for our relief and recovery efforts.


“The loan helped us out with our biggest and most important expense: our employees.”


Diego Castillo and his parents started Arepasmania to share their Colombian heritage, and specifically the rich and distinguished flavors of their cuisine, with their community. When they opened in the food court of a mall in 2017, the success was immediate.

Yet in early 2020, Diego and his parents found themselves facing an unprecedented challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the mall, and thus Arepasmania, to close for two months. Even when the mall reopened, Diego and his parents remained uncertain of the future of their business, as crowds were a fraction of what they once were.

However, Diego and his parents also received a PPP loan from Ascendus, which provided a lift, not only for them, but for the individuals they employ. Diego has also pushed himself creatively to adapt, growing as an entrepreneur along the way. Now feeling confident about navigating the path ahead, Diego looks forward to seeing his community bounce back.

Nitin Bakery

“Ascendus gave us the opportunity to grow. We now have more space, more people, and more energy.”

Community Advantage

In 2019, we continued to grow our 7a SBA Community Advantage program, which provides small business loans ranging from $50,000 – $250,000. We disbursed $3 million in capital to 29 small business owners, $600,000 more dollars than in 2018.

Since the program’s inception in 2016, we have provided over $8.6 million dollars to 77 entrepreneurs through April 2020. This significant impact over a short period of time enabled us to rise from the 100th lender in the program in 2016 to now the 11th.

In 2019, we saw four Community Advantage clients graduate to bank financing and secure a loan from a traditional lender. This demonstrated the power of our Community Advantage program to create a bridge to bankability and lasting self-sufficiency. In short, we created financial ascension for these four clients.

Entrepreneurs of Color Fund

2019 marked the end of the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund program, a program made possible by JPMorgan Chase and Excelsior Growth Fund. The program required focus, innovation and collaboration to provide access to capital and financial education directly to entrepreneurs of color in the South Bronx, a county whose poverty rate is twice the national average.

Since the program’s inception in 2018, we lent more than $1.2 million in capital to over 100 small business owners who would otherwise not have access to financial resources. The program demonstrates our ability to innovate for impact.

In 2019 and as a result of this program, we served 3 times as many entrepreneurs and disbursed 14 times as much capital in the Bronx than in 2017, the year before the program began.

EOCF and South Bronx Lending

EOCF and Bronx Lending

2019 marked the end of the Entrepreneurs of Color program, a program made possible through our partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Excelsior Growth Fund. The program brought access to capital and financial education directly to entrepreneurs of color in the South Bronx, one of the poorest regions in the country where the poverty rate is over double the national average.

Since the program’s inception in 2018, we’ve lent more than $1.2 million in capital to over 100 small business owners who otherwise would not have access to financial resources. The program demonstrates our commitment to supporting the most underserved and otherwise systematically excluded communities.

In 2019, we provided $1.5million to 120 small business owners in the Bronx, three times the amount of entrepreneurs served and 14 times the capital disbursed in 2017.

4-Star Rating
from Charity

For the sixth consecutive year, we received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator in recognition of our financial health, accountability and transparency.

SBA Microlender
of the Year Award
in MA

For the 7th consecutive year, we were recognized with the SBA Microlender of the Year Award in Massachusetts for our continued support of Massachusetts entrepreneurs.

In the fiscal year of 2019, Ascendus provided 24 Massachusetts small business owners with SBA Microloans totaling over $324,700 in capital.

Through the SBA lending program, we were able to provide $2.1 million to 141 small business owners throughout the East Coast.

SBA Community
Partner of the Year
Award in FL

In May, we received the SBA Community Partner of the Year Award for our powerful and longstanding impact within the Florida small business community.

This was also our second year in a row winning recognition from the Florida SBA. In 2019, we provided $529,000 to 38 Florida small business owners through the SBA program.

Development Financial
Institutions Fund

For the seventh time in eight years, we received the CDFI Fund’s Award. One of the most competitive awards nationwide for our field, this award is a testament to our scale, impact, and leadership in empowering the most financially marginalized entrepreneurs.

we believe in the
power of up.

A Focus on Vision and Values

We will be guided by our vision of “creating financial ascension for all”, achieved by serving certain people in specific places that need us most, and always inspired by our lived values of adaptability, dedication, empathy, inclusion, integrity and passion.

Innovation for Impact

We will continually introduce products, services and offerings that advance the achievement of financial ascension for those we serve.


We will partner with others on a journey of empowerment and improvement for the entrepreneurs we serve and the lives and communities they support. After all, “us” is in our name.


We will remain nimble and entrepreneurial, rapidly implementing small but progressive evolutionary changes that will cumulatively achieve a transformative revolution.

help support our mission

Your support is what enables us to go above and beyond for our clients, delivering the resources they need to endure obstacles, provide for their families, and thrive in their communities.

Donate now to make an impact that lasts.

thank you to our
2019 Ascendus supporters

Institutional Partners

$500,000 and above

  • Community Development Financial Institutions Fund
  • US Small Business Administration

$200,000 to $499,999

  • The Boston Beer Company
  • The Clark Foundation
  • TD Charitable Foundation

$100,000 to $199,999

  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation
  • Citi Community Development
  • The Coca Cola Company
  • New York City Council
  • Robin Hood Foundation
  • Wells Fargo Foundation

$50,000 to $99,999

  • Anonymous
  • Capital One
  • Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation
  • Empire State Development
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation
  • Morgan Stanley

$25,000 to $49,999

  • Bank United
  • JPMorgan Chase Foundation
  • Lawrence Foundation
  • TIAA Bank

$10,000 to $24,999

  • Amerant Bank, N.A.
  • Anna B. Stearns Charitable Foundation
  • Apple Bank
  • BB&T
  • BNB Bank
  • City National Bank
  • Comerica Charitable Foundation
  • Edward And Ellen Roche Relief Foundation
  • Erich and Hannah Sachs Foundation
  • HAB Bank
  • HSBC Bank
  • Hyde & Watson Foundation
  • Metropolitan Commercial Bank
  • MUFG Foundation
  • Santander Bank
  • Sterling National Bank
  • SunTrust Bank Foundation
  • Theodore Edson Parker Foundation

$5,000 to $9,999

  • Bank Leumi
  • Bank OZK
  • BTQ Financial
  • Investors Bank Charitable Foundation
  • Rita J. & Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation
  • Metropolitan Commercial Bank
  • Moses Kimball Fund
  • Patrina Foundation
  • PCPC
  • People’s United Bank

$1,000 to $4,999

  • Boston Private Bank & Trust Company
  • Cambridge Savings Bank
  • Friedman Family Foundation
  • Goldman Sachs
  • M&T Charitable Foundation
  • Ponce De Leon Bank
  • Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation
  • Signature Bank

Individual Donors

CEO Circle ($25,000+)

  • Lynn & Johan Kaufman

Innovator ($10,000-$24,999)

  • Laura Miller
  • Paul & Marieta Quintero

Job Creator ($5,000 – $9,999)

  • Anonymous
  • Sherman Carll
  • Cheryl Myers & Steve Stockton
  • Patrick Peterson & Shirley Tsai

Accelerator ($2,500 – $4,999)

  • Anonymous
  • Benjamin & Susan Baxt
  • Jo Morningstar &Timothy Lynes
  • Thomas & Susana McDermott
  • Matthew Morningstar
  • William & Sandra Rosenfeld
  • Edward Van Gundy

Accionista ($1,000 – $2,499)

  • Peter, Ryan & Lila Cureton
  • Colleen Galvin
  • Michael and Claudine Henry
  • Sudhir Jain
  • Kimberly Johnson
  • Dennis & Pauline Lagueux
  • Roshelle Nagar
  • Jacqueline & Jean Paul Plumez
  • Ilya Scheidwasser
  • Cristina Shapiro
  • James L. Shields
  • Nancy Truitt
  • Jerome Weiss

$500 – $999

  • Sean Berry
  • Michael Buckner
  • Rodrigo Cerveira
  • Daniel Delehanty
  • Greg Dutov
  • Victoria Felix & John DeWees
  • Michael Friedson
  • Ana Hammock & Jeffrey Isen
  • Emily Hurst
  • John Johnston
  • Wendy Lane
  • Henry, Catherine & Will Lanier
  • Lara Porter
  • Leslie Puth
  • Paul Redstone
  • Gail Smith
  • Diana Waterbury
  • Ashley Wessier & Sherri Lane

$100 – $499

  • David Asher
  • Melanie Benson
  • Shirley & Timothy Blancke
  • Pamela Booth
  • Carrington Carter
  • Sawandi Cassell
  • Sarah Chaudhry
  • Alexandra Chou
  • Alan Cody & Edith Moricz
  • Sherry and David Cook
  • Clara Diaz-Leal
  • Paul Dominguez
  • Paula Easton
  • Joseph Eldridge & Maria Otero
  • Fabiana Estrada
  • Anne Fish
  • Kevin Fisher
  • Todd Flolo
  • Linde & Russell Gee
  • Adam Grenier
  • Joseph Hernandez
  • Sylvia Herrera
  • John and Sofia Hickle
  • Paul Hunt
  • Jim Kiewel
  • Michael Lake
  • Nina LaPine
  • Alvaro Lima
  • Michele Linn
  • Paul & Suzanne Lipsky
  • David Mares
  • Alfonso & Christine Martinez-Fonts
  • Rosanna Mason
  • Jessica McAdaragh
  • Michael McLaurin
  • Kathleen McQuown
  • Victoria Richardson & Max Myers
  • Mia & Stephen Parker
  • Olivia Parsons
  • Jordan Pollinger
  • Stefan Sandoval
  • Olivia Schaeffer
  • Karen Schmitt
  • Lisa Servon
  • Myrna Sonora
  • Peggy Sousa
  • Sherry Stolzenberg
  • Roger Strang
  • Michael Temlin
  • Lisa Tener
  • Mihai Vrasmasu
  • Anita Barker Weeks
  • Anita & James Wessier
  • Bernhardt Wruble

The Janet Thompson Society

  • Janet Thompson
  • Faye M. Chandler
  • The Estate of Chaninah Maschler

The Janet Thompson Society honors and recognizes those loyal supporters who are helping to ensure families have access to the financial tools they need to achieve economic security through planned giving.

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