Employment and Jobs

Encouraging Job Quality in Small Businesses: Advising, Lending, and Procurement Approaches

May 20, 2021  • Economic Opportunities Program

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As a crucial source of employment in local communities, small businesses have an important role to play in advancing economic opportunity and job quality. Yet even before the pandemic, time and resource constraints could make it challenging for small business owners to invest in workers. The overlapping crises of the past year have magnified these challenges, creating new stress and uncertainty for small businesses – while also demonstrating that the wellbeing of their workers is essential to business success.

Around the country, innovative community development finance and economic development organizations are pursuing strategies to support small businesses to navigate the pandemic and strengthen job quality for workers. During the webinar, you’ll hear from leaders using these approaches – and forging innovative partnerships with local organizations – to encourage small business practices that are good for workers, good for business, and good for communities. Panelists include:

  • Amanda Blondeau, Chief Strategy Officer, Northern Initiatives; Job Quality Fellow, The Aspen Institute
  • Tim Gamory, CEO, BronXchange
  • Bulbul Gupta, President and CEO, Pacific Community Ventures

Hear panelists discuss how they are adapting job quality-focused strategies during the pandemic and their priorities for recovery and beyond.



Webinar: “Encouraging #JobQuality in #SmallBiz: Advising, Lending, and Procurement Approaches.” May 20 at 2 p.m. ET. Featuring @dumodifference (@niupnorth), @timgamory (@bronxchange), @bulbulnyc (@PCVtweets). Hosted by @AspenWorkforce & @Aspen_BOI.

#SmallBiz are a crucial source of employment in local communities, and they have an important role to play in advancing opportunity and #jobquality. Learn more with @dumodifference, @timgamory, and @bulbulnyc. May 20 at 2 pm ET.

Even before the pandemic, #smallbiz owners faced challenges investing in workers. The past year has underscored that workers’ wellbeing is essential to business success. How can we support both employees and business owners?

Around the country, innovative #CDFIs and #econdev orgs are supporting #smallbiz and strengthening #jobquality. Hear from leaders who are advancing practices that are good for workers, businesses, and communities. May 20 at 2pm ET.

I’m excited to attend this webinar by @AspenWorkforce and @Aspen_BOI on “Encouraging Job Quality in Small Businesses: Advising, Lending, and Procurement Approaches.” Will you join me? RSVP here: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/encouraging-job-quality-in-small-businesses-advising-lending-and-procurement-approaches/ Join the conversation by tweeting #jobquality.


Speaker Bios

Photo of Amanda Blondeau

Amanda Blondeau @dumodifference
Chief Strategy Officer, Northern Initiatives @niupnorth; Job Quality Fellow, The Aspen Institute

Amanda Blondeau is the director of business services for Northern Initiatives. Northern Initiatives provides capital and know-how to entrepreneurs in Michigan and the five border counties of Wisconsin. Business Services provides the know-how to start-up borrowers and growing businesses to be more knowledgeable and capable of building systems to support growth.

Amanda is the project leader for the development and implementation of Initiate, Northern Initiatives’ online business education portal, which has increased customers served by 20% per year. Initiate is licensed to six community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to enhance their business advisory programs. In collaboration with these CDFIS, an Initiate Learning Community is helping to share best practices, drive ongoing innovation, and evaluate outcomes.

During her tenure at Northern Initiatives, she’s held multiple roles including network administrator, information technology consultant, and business coach.

Amanda participated in industry cohorts including the Aspen Institute’s Emerging Leaders in Microbusiness, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses CDFI Growth and Finance Collaboratives, and currently the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Knowledge Network.

She’s a native of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Yooper) and currently telecommutes from Virginia, where she lives with her husband and two dogs.


Photo of Tim Gamory

Tim Gamory @timgamory
CEO, BronXchange @bronxchange

Tim Gamory is the CEO of BronXchange, a project of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative. BronXchange is a social enterprise that strengthens the small business ecosystem in support of a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable Bronx economy. Prior to joining BronXchange, Tim was a founding team member and the technical architect of Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator and go-to resource for philanthropists. Tim got his professional start as a teacher in the Bronx as part of Teach For America, before joining the national staff of TFA to lead development of the alumni network and connect thousands of alumni to the mission of ensuring every child has an equal opportunity to learn, grow, influence, and lead.


Photo of Bulbul Gupta

Bulbul Gupta @bulbulnyc
President and CEO, Pacific Community Ventures @PCVtweets

Bulbul Gupta is president and CEO of Pacific Community Ventures, where she previously served as a board member. Bulbul is a mission-driven leader, passionate about making markets and technology work for social good and the future of workers. She has 20 years of experience in funding and advising entrepreneurs, advancing quality jobs, and growing the field of impact investing for equity and inclusion.

She recently served as the founding advisor of Socos Labs, an artificial intelligence think tank innovating to make work and economies more inclusive and human-centric; an adjunct lecturer in social innovation and impact investing at both Hult International Business School and NYU; and a speaker and coach at Singularity Ventures, 500 Startups, and Village Capital.

Prior to her current roles, Bulbul led entrepreneurship and impact investing at the Clinton Global Initiative; was a global entrepreneurship policy advisor to the Clinton Campaign; led private sector partnerships at The Asia Foundation; coordinated strategy and budget at USAID for the Asia bureau, Global Development Alliance; and worked on and off Capitol Hill on social safety nets and women’s human rights.

Bulbul has served on MacArthur Foundation’s Place-Based Investing and the Global Social Good/G8 Impact Investing task forces, advised the Open Road Alliance family office, and helped launch the White House National Advisory Board on Impact Investing in 2013.

She has a master’s degree in public policy and economics from the University of Michigan and completed her undergraduate thesis on micro-lending at the George Washington University. An immigrant daughter of Indian entrepreneurs, she lives in Palo Alto with her Jedi daughters.



Photo of Amanda Newman

Amanda Newman @amandabnewman
Senior Project Manager, Economic Opportunities Program, The Aspen Institute @AspenWorkforce

Amanda Newman joined the Economic Opportunities Program in June 2016. Her work is focused on advancing equitable outcomes through workforce development and related strategies. At the Institute, she manages projects that explore ways to improve economic opportunity and enhance job quality for low- and moderate-income workers.

Amanda has a prior background in education policy and has worked in nonprofit and public sector organizations, including the Government of the District of Columbia. Amanda completed a Master’s in Education Policy at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, where she worked with the Center for Education Policy Research and Boston Public Schools. A former educator, Amanda taught middle school Literature and remedial reading in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She is also a graduate of Wesleyan University’s College of Letters, where she earned high honors for her thesis project in literary and political theory.


Job Quality in Practice

This webinar is the eleventh in our Job Quality in Practice webinar series. The Job Quality in Practice series is designed to support practitioners across fields – including workforce development, economic development, investing and lending, policy, worker advocacy, and business – to address job quality in their work. Webinars share updates on current conditions and priorities as well as actionable tools and approaches. We also seek to highlight leading practitioners’ work and create connections across disciplines.

We are grateful to Prudential Financial for its support of our Job Quality in Practice webinar series and our ongoing efforts to advance a job quality field of practice. Other webinars in this series include:


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 connected to our work, including events, publications, blog posts, and more.