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Small Business

Delivering Credit to Entrepreneurs of Color Impacted by COVID-19: Why Community Financial Institutions Are Essential

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About This Event

Prior to the global pandemic, the relatively high small business start and ownership rates among entrepreneurs of color were a bright spot in a period of declining US entrepreneurship. But small businesses have endured some of the hardest stresses of the pandemic, as forced closures and physical distancing have decimated earnings for restaurants, salons, childcare centers, and other services we all rely on. Businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color have been particularly impacted by declining revenues, and despite government efforts to get money into people’s hands, many small businesses have not received the support they need. This is partly a problem with the delivery systems used: programs that flow through banks miss those that have historically been underserved. Fortunately, there are lenders who serve these businesses and communities: Community Development Financial Institutions. CDFIs are mission-driven lenders that serve the parts of America that too often get left behind, including people of color, returning veterans, new citizens, and more. What role can CDFIs play in supporting entrepreneurs and advancing equity during this uncertain time? And how can policymakers, investors, philanthropy, and others support the work of CDFIs?


Featured Speakers

Bill Bynum
Chief Executive Officer, HOPE ; Trustee, The Aspen Institute

For more than three decades, Bill Bynum has worked to advance economic opportunity for disenfranchised populations. He began his career in North Carolina by establishing nationally recognized programs at Self-Help and at the NC Rural Economic Development Center. In 1994, Bynum moved to Mississippi to become the founding CEO of the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, and in 1995 organized Hope Community Credit Union.

Today, HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union and Hope Policy Institute), is a family of organizations that provides financial services; leverages resources; and engages in policy analysis to strengthen communities, build assets, and improve lives in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Since 1994, HOPE has generated more than $2.5 billion in financing that has benefitted more than one million people in one of the nation’s most impoverished regions.

Bynum serves on the boards of the Aspen Institute, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Prosperity Now, and William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. Bynum previously chaired the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Consumer Advisory Board and the Treasury Department’s Community Development Advisory Board, and served as a member of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. A recipient of the University of North Carolina Distinguished Alumnus Award, Bynum and HOPE have been honored with the John P. McNulty Prize (Aspen Global Leadership Network), Ned Gramlich Award for Responsible Finance (Opportunity Finance Network), Annie Vamper Award (National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions), Herb Wegner Award (National Credit Union Foundation), National Entrepreneur of the Year (Ernst & Young/Kauffman Foundation), Rural Hero Award (National Rural Assembly), Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award (African American Credit Union Coalition) and The Wall St. Journal/Met Life Foundation Financial Inclusion Challenge.

Bynum is a member of the Advisory Council of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program. Learn more at


Michael Barr
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, Frank Murphy Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, Roy F. and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Michael S. Barr is the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School, the Frank Murphy Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, the Roy F. and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law, and Faculty Director of the Center on Finance, Law, and Policy at the University of Michigan. He is also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and, previously, at the Brookings Institution. He served from 2009-2010 as the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, and was a key architect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School; an M. Phil in International Relations from Magdalen College, Oxford University, as a Rhodes Scholar; and his B.A., summa cum laude, with Honors in History, from Yale University.


Nicole Jordan-Reed
Owner and Founder, Nicole Jordan Catering, LLC

Nicole Jordan-Reed

Nicole Jordan-Reed comes with a wealth of corporate and consulting experience, spending nearly 20 years providing end-to-end business solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Working for organizations like Towers Watson, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, and JPMorgan Chase, Nicole gained years of experience in consulting, customer success management, project management, benefits administration, and software process implementation. However, her passion for the culinary arts inspired her to eventually pivot into the entrepreneurial realm.

Nicole’s journey started in 2005, enrolling in the Culinary Management Program at the Illinois Institute of Art. The entrepreneurial bug struck and from 2006 to 2008, Nicole owned and operated her first catering company, Intimate Affair, while working full-time. Not to be deterred, Nicole remained active in the culinary community. Having realized the need for educating her people on making healthier food choices, she began working with organizations and youth on eating lifestyles beyond fast food and convenience, discovering the benefits of proper nutrition, common-sense eating, and being active. This philosophy developed into what would become Nicole Jordan Catering’s initial mantra, “Changing the way people eat.”

In 2016, with confidence, Nicole left the corporate world for good and founded Nicole Jordan Catering, LLC. She began offering services for small and large events. NJC’s mission focuses on “curating the best parts of life with food.” Over the last four years, NJC has grown rapidly, developing an extensive and loyal customer base, which includes clients like the Chicago Urban League, Chicago State University, City of Chicago, Chicago Teachers Union, Facebook, University of Chicago, Chicago Community Trust and The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Sam’s Club, Feeding America, and Bank of Tokyo. This success speaks to Nicole’s belief in the power of quality service. She is a strong proponent of the customer experience and believes that a company’s cultural mindset based on service first is one of the keys to longevity for a small business, especially in catering.

Nicole is a recent graduate and alum of the Ascend 2020 Kellogg Business Growth Program, Accion Neighborhood Entrepreneurial Lab (2020), and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program (2018). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Chicago. A native of Chicago, Nicole enjoys live concerts, performance art, Pilates, and spending time with her husband, Erik.



Helaine Olen
Opinion Writer, The Washington Post

Helaine Olen

Helaine Olen is an opinion writer for the Washington Post’s opinion section and the senior managing editor for Public Seminar at The New School. An expert on money and society with a deep understanding of public policy, she writes, speaks, and consults on issues including politics, Social Security, retirement, healthcare, student loans, small business, and women’s financial issues. She’s the author of “Pound Foolish: Exposing The Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry” and co-author of “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be So Complicated.” Helaine has appeared on The Daily Show, Frontline, C-Span, the BBC, MSNBC, All Things Considered, Marketplace, and more to share her commentary on political and economic issues.


How can CDFIs support entrepreneurs and advance equity in this uncertain time? Join @Aspen_BOI for “Delivering Credit to Entrepreneurs of Color Impacted by #COVID19: Why Community Financial Institutions Are Essential.” Aug 4 at 2 p.m. ET. #talkopportunity

Read the Blog Post

Small Business
The Most Vulnerable Small Businesses and Communities Will Be Left Behind Without Targeted Action: The Fed and Treasury Can Make Sure They Are Not
March 25, 2020 • William (Bill) Bynum, & 2 more

Opportunity in America

The Economic Opportunities Program’s Opportunity in America discussion series has moved to an all-virtual format as we all do what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the conversations about the changing landscape of economic opportunity in the US and implications for individuals, families, and communities across the country remain vitally important. We hope you will participate as we bring our discussions to you in virtual formats, and we look forward to your feedback.

We are grateful to the Ford Foundation, Prudential Financial,, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, and the Surdna Foundation for their support of this series.

Learn More

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on events, publications, blog posts, and more.

Event information
Tue Aug 4, 2020
2:00pm - 3:00pm EDT