Rio Grande Guardian International News Service | By Luis Montoya
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Janie Barrera, the founder of LiftFund, has been honored with the Impact Award for Innovation on Main Street at the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) 30th Anniversary Symposium and Gala.
Established in 1994, San Antonio-based LiftFund is a nonprofit small business lender that aims to transform lives by opening doors and leveling the financial playing field in entrepreneurship.
The symposium and gala was held July 20 at the prestigious Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
“We selected Ms. Barrera specifically because she was a trailblazer for implementing technological infrastructure in micro-finance work,” said Connie E. Evans, president and CEO of AEO.
“Her leadership has not only created progress, but has also groomed the next generation of leaders in the industry.”
Evans said AEO is working to change the way capital and services flow to underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all.
Since it started in 1991, AEO and its member and partner organizations have helped millions of entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth while supporting themselves, their families and their communities.
AEO’s more than 1,700 members and partners include a broad range of organizations that provide capital and services to assist underserved entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing and expanding their businesses.
Barrera was among eight honorees who were recognized for their leadership at the AEO event with the theme “Celebrating 30 Years by Building a Better Tomorrow.”
The eight honorees were praised for capitalizing on the momentum gained by partnering with critical ecosystem actors to help Main Street navigate the economic shifts brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am honored to be among those selected to receive this prestigious award. Small businesses have faced many challenges and it has been our goal to find innovated ways to support them,” Barrera said. “Many have suffered revenue losses, supply shortages, rising costs and the loss of staff, making it extremely difficult to keep up with monthly bills and expenses.”
Barrera pointed out that LiftFund provides responsible capital and business education to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
She noted that LiftFund has supported San Antonio small business owners with over $77.8 million in small business loans since 1994. In fact, since its inception, LiftFund has made over 25,000 loans totaling more than $428 million across its 15-state footprint, which includes: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, New York and Texas.
The speakers at the AEO event included Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, public sector leaders such as Isabel Guzman, the U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator, and well-known actor and author, Hill Harper.
Visiting Capitol Hill and the White House
While in D.C., Barrera held meetings with leaders at the White House and Capitol Hill.
The purpose was to advocate for access to capital for small businesses.
During the D.C. trip, Barrera and Amy Hereford, LiftFund’s general counsel and chief external affairs officer, visited with Julie Chavez Rodriguez at the White House. Chavez Rodriguez is a special advisor to President Biden.
They also met with U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and visited the offices of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Reps Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, and Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.
In these meetings, Barrera and Hereford said they shared their “on the ground” perspectives as to what LiftFund is seeing in the marketplace and advocated for more access to capital for small businesses.
“We are so grateful to President Biden, his team, and the leaders of the Texas Congressional delegation for their continued support of small businesses,” said Barrera said.
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