Now in its tenth year, OFN's Small Business Finance Forum returned in person to downtown Chicago’s magnificent mile for the first time in four years and we got to attend! Over 500 mission-driven small business lenders, funders, investors, and other partners from around the country got together to learn, connect, and be inspired.
And inspiring it was! It was amazing to chat with other CDFI colleagues and to learn from some of the best and brightest leaders on new innovations, ideas, and strategies to continue serving our country's underserved communities.
But to back up a little, what is a CDFI you might ask? Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are lenders with a mission to provide fair, responsible financing to rural, urban, Native, and other communities that mainstream finance doesn’t traditionally reach. Where others see risk, we see opportunity.
Entrepreneurship surged during the pandemic, increasing demand for small business financing that continues today. At the same time, troubling signs in the economy, from inflation to rising interest rates to bank failures, are constricting access to finance, putting small businesses — and the American economy — at risk. The focus of this conference was how our organizations can get creative and lean in more.
Sara Day, our Program Manager of Training and Outreach attending on the UMLF's behalf and her notebook is FULL of new ideas to implement in Utah. There were many great plenaries as well as breakout sessions. Sometimes it was hard to choose which one to attend because the options were all captivating topics.
Some standout favorites were:
We're so grateful for the opportunity to attend and can't wait for the next one! To learn more about Opportunity Finance Network visit www.ofn.org.