October 29, 2020

Jillian Rosen

When I was teenager, about to graduate from high school, I desperately wanted to spend a year traveling the world before enrolling in college. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience people and places. I had big visions of adventure — who doesn’t when you’re 17 and have no idea how adult life works. I also had two loving, overprotective parents who did not share my grand vision and who saw a straight path from high school to college. I wrote them essays on why this was a good idea, showed them pictures of the places I wanted to go, and still they did not support my plan. As I am no longer a wanderlust teenager and as a parent myself, I get it — the opportunity just wasn’t there. It was an important lesson — that opportunity is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. (Oxford Dictionary).

Possibility and opportunity — it drives me and now as a proud member of the AAACF team I bring into my work the mindset that community philanthropy should be supportive of the opportunity and possibility that the community seeks for itself. And we learned from our 2020 Washtenaw County Capital Research Report that the people of Washtenaw County have big dreams and visions and are willing to work hard for the opportunities to make them a reality. And yet, we also learned that women, low income entrepreneurs, and people of color are systematically left out of accessing investment capital for their big ideas as manifested in their businesses. The report findings shared that investment capital is mostly available to large businesses, while 70% of county businesses actually have fewer than 10 employees and that lending on a per household basis favors low-poverty and majority white neighborhoods in Washtenaw County. A set of circumstances in our community is blocking many from accessing needed capital that spurs economic growth and success.

AAACF’s Impact Investing Committee and the Board of Trustees also value and believe in possibility and opportunity and have made a $250,000 impact investment in Michigan Women Forward’s Community Impact Note. Our investment launches a microloan program specifically for Washtenaw County entrepreneurs to access start up and sustaining capital for their businesses that serve our community. The microloan program will prioritize low to moderate income women business owners and particularly women of color led businesses. We know that capital does not exist and work in isolation so borrowers also receive wrap around technical business assistance from MWF to support success. Interested businesses should contact MWF directly: www.miwf.org. AAACF’s capital, MWF’s microloan program, and our community’s local businesses are a start to redefining the set of circumstances for economic opportunity in Washtenaw County. Please reach out to me if you too want to support a set of circumstances that makes it possible for all people to economically thrive in our community.