Fueling Inclusive Access to Opportunity for Small Business Owners With Salesforce

By Salesforce.org | April 10, 2017 | Community Engagement - Nonprofit, Marketing & Communications, Nonprofit

By: Gina Harman, CEO, Accion U.S. Network

Sole Sneaker Boutique
Brenda Jimenez & Felix Macias, owners of Sole Sneaker Boutique in San Antonio, TX

Entrepreneurs have tremendous power to drive inclusive economic growth in their communities. 92% of all U.S. businesses have less than five employees, and if each of these small businesses hired just one additional employee, the country would be at full employment. The growth in the number of overall small businesses in the U.S. has been driven by women, minority-owned, and especially minority women-owned businesses in recent years.

Yet, leveraging the power of small businesses to drive economic growth remains incredibly challenging. In fact, about 8,000 small business loans are declined each day in the U.S. That’s where mission-based lenders like Accion come in. We are a nationwide network of nonprofit lenders combining deep local knowledge with loans and unmatched personalized advising. Since 1991, Accion has lent over $500 million to more than 60,000 businesses and provided more than 500,000 entrepreneurs with advising services.

Accion is proud of the impact our services have on those entrepreneurs we serve, as well as their families and their communities. However, in order to adequately meet the challenges facing today’s small business owners we need to dramatically increase the scale of our lending and advising services. For example, new technology-enabled finance providers are beginning to fill the business capital gap, and they can do so at a greater scale than is currently possible for nonprofit lenders. Some of these providers are helping underserved business owners reach their dreams, while others are causing business owners unanticipated financial hardship due to poorly disclosed fees and features. And, these new lenders have set a new bar in customer expectations around speed, ease of application and product variety.

That’s why in 2015 we embarked upon our most significant investment in innovation to date. Our goal is to quadruple the number of loans we provide each year, without leaving behind our traditional customer base: women, minority and low or moderate-income business owners. In doing so, we also seek to enhance our capacity to provide the personalized support and guidance that entrepreneurs need to reach their full potential.



In partnership with Salesforce, Accion is building the capacity to support tens of thousands more entrepreneurs like Lauren Petrick, Owner of LEAP South FL.

Leveraging Innovation for Impact

2017 will see the launch of the first phase of Accion’s U.S. efforts, the product of tremendous collaboration among four separate nonprofit organizations which also includes implementing Salesforce in partnership with implementation partner, Cloud Lending. Our ambitious goals are to support the work of 200 Accion team members across the country with a customer-centric service that is data-driven and best-in-class – from the process of applying for a loan through the journey of starting and growing an enterprise. This platform is paired with a new loan decision solution powered by DemystData, which integrates Accion’s historical data along with dozens of alternative and verifiable data sources to create a more inclusive and transparent application process for small business owners. These improvements combined with additional enhancements to Accion’s streamlined online loan application. Overall, Accion’s collaboration with Salesforce seeks to enable business owners to complete an application and receive approval for a loan within a single day.

With the capacity built to lend to many more small business owners, we are leveraging Pardot, a client engagement solution powered by Salesforce. Pardot will improve Accion’s ability to reach more entrepreneurs and gain insights into the challenges and opportunities they experience as they search for business financing. Additionally, Pardot will help Accion provide more small business owners – whether or not they are Accion customers – with relevant, accessible and actionable online business resources that are tailored to their unique needs. Future projects include leveraging the Salesforce Community Cloud and other tools to provide tailored support, tools and guidance to entrepreneurs with similar interests and experiences (e.g. entrepreneurs in a particular industry, entrepreneurs who are participating in a business accelerator program or entrepreneurs looking to build their credit).

Mende Cardona, Owner of Mende’s Groom Room in El Centro, CA
Mende Cardona, Owner of Mende’s Groom Room in El Centro, CA

The improvements Accion is implementing across its U.S. Network are meant to meet the diverse needs of our nation’s small business owners and provide our organization with the capacity to continually improve our service and impact. This would not be possible without the ability to integrate numerous Salesforce-enabled tools across a single lending and database management platform.

We are inspired every day by the entrepreneurs we work with, who are motivated by the hope of creating a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. Thanks to our partnership with Salesforce, Accion can help tens of thousands more small business owners like them realize their dreams.

Pardot is a useful tool for every nonprofit. Join our webinar, Your Nonprofit Can Do It, Too: The Path to Marketing Communications Excellence, on Tuesday, April 11 at 2:00pm EDT / 11:00am PDT, to learn more!


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