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Atlanta 5x5: Grace ...
Atlanta 5x5: Grace Fricks
Atlanta 5X5 Profile: Grace Fricks
Atlanta 5×5 Profile: Grace Fricks
and Invest Atlanta
have joined forces with The City of Atlanta to create a unique blog series called the Atlanta 5X5
Together, we're compiling our list of the top 5 women Role Models, influencers, and visionaries in the Atlanta area.
Today's post celebrates Grace Fricks
, a southern-born visionary challenging the status quo and leading small business owners toward financial success.
proves the power of Role Models in our everyday lives.
As a kid in Canton, Mississippi, Fricks admired her grandmother-a woman described as a cross between the legendary Joan Crawford and actress Agnes Moorehead (Endora from the television series Bewitched).
"When I think about her
was strong," Fricks
childhood hero, Fricks
voice and experience to those in need.
First, in her
career as a social worker and now in her
encore career as Founder and CEO of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Inc.
(ACE), a not-for-profit lending organization that provides microcredit and small business loans for underserved markets.
explains, "I believe everyone who has that drive and desire-that intangible thing-deserves the opportunity to succeed..."
Named one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine, and the SBA Georgia District Financial Services Champion of the Year, Fricks spends her days as a fierce Role Model and a proponent for women entrepreneurs around the south.
So, how did this visionary leverage her
second career to become one of Atlanta's top influencers?
Here's what Fricks had to say to Women@TheFrontier
about taking first steps, living with grace under fire, and focusing on the future.
Taking First Steps
Here's the thing about Fricks
: if you ask her
personal life she
would rather discuss (with her
thick southern drawl and infectious laugh) the success of her
clients or the in-and-outs of business.
"I've never been afraid to ask for someone else," she
says, "for something outside of myself, which is a typical woman thing."
continues to prove she
is anything but typical.
With a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin and an MBA from the University of Memphis, Fricks'
early career focused on social work.
In 1991, she served as President and CEO of The Appalachian Consulting Group (ACG), an organization improving the physical and mental health of individuals with mental illnesses.
"I still have the consulting company," Fricks
says, "and my husband, Larry does the work."
Since its inception, ACG
has served to train more than 5,000 peer specialists in 25 states and helped countless people self-manage mental illness.
After excelling for two decades in health and social services, Fricks
was awarded the Advocate of the Year from the Georgia Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
"I thought what kind of trouble can I get into with $50,000."
But by 1997, Fricks
had a new idea.
"I had an interest in this intersection of social mobility and money," she
"Money is the universal leveler.
If you've got money, you can make things happen.
This idea-the merger between social work and finance-became the first step toward building ACE, a vehicle for loans for an underserved market of entrepreneurs.
A friend who ran the entrepreneurial education program at North Georgia Technical College
sparked the idea for ACE.
"Here's this small technical college working on entrepreneurship way before it became trendy," Fricks
connection with the college, she
learned many of the graduates possessed the education and dedication to start a business but lacked the finances to succeed.
"So, the Appalachian Regional Commission
gave us a $50,000 grant for the loan and around $40,000 over two years to pay for setting it up," she
"I thought what kind of trouble can I get into with $50,000."
As Fricks soon discovered, that loan amounted to more than she
or anyone else could imagine.
Living with Grace Under Fire
first step involved creating ACE, her
second one required her
to learn about finance and loans.
A social worker, Fricks knew little about starting a loan business.
"Being in rural areas, I was able to garner support from the community," Fricks
"I went to my personal community banker and told him I want to do this…he set up an Excel spreadsheet and made coupon books.
Fricks also contracted a local entrepreneur to help with PR and worked with the technical college to organize the loan committee.
"It was a collaborative effort," she
says, "and I was just pulling the players together."
, they arrived with the 2008 recession.
couldn't give up on ACE's mission, though.
refused to hunker down.
superpower to pull the proper players together.
They developed a sustainable, yet aggressive plan for the company.
"You reach deep down, and whatever you're made of, diversity pulls that out," Fricks
"We grew almost 400% over the next three years," Fricks
"We hired former bankers, many who had lost their jobs due to the recession, and they helped with underwriting and we expanded into Atlanta.
It changed the course of history for us."
Focusing Forward Momentum
Today, this CEO is focused on the future-the future of Atlanta, the future of women in entrepreneurship and yes, even the future of Grace
When asked about the future of Atlanta, Fricks
responds with enthusiasm.
believes the city will experience continued growth, especially if leaders stay focused on small businesses.
"One of the particular things in our industry is neighborhood economics," Fricks
also dedicates her
time to multiple boards and civic initiatives, including the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Appalachian Community Capital, and Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc.
But the most recent board she
serves on is the Women Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), a business incubator for women entrepreneurs launched in partnership by the City of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta
Women in entrepreneurship is a particular area of interest for Fricks
, one she
and ACE support.
In 2013, the company began implementing the Women Investing in Successful Entrepreneurs (WISE) program through the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America).
The loan program provides access to capital, business education, and advisory services focused on women starting or expanding businesses in Georgia.
The numbers reflect Fricks' commitment to the program.
ACE has secured 70 loans totaling more than $4.4 million to 73 women entrepreneurs, many of them with low-to-moderate incomes and minorities.
Finally, we ask her
the hard question: what's next for the future of Grace?
becomes still and ponders the question for a moment.
"My purpose is to empower others to fulfill their dreams," she
Pingback: Three more things to know about Grace Fricks
Fricks founded Access to ...
Fricks founded Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) in 1997 and began lending services in 1999.Named as one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians Read More
PRESIDENT AND CEO, ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR ENTREPRENEURS (ACE)
Speaking on Thursday's panel, "Social ...
Speaking on Thursday's panel, "Social Investing: So What is a CDFI and Why Are They Important to Communities?", Grace Fricks, CEO of ACE Loans in Georgia, told the audience, "The American Dream isn't possible for any of us if it's not possible for low-income people."
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) like ACE Loans are having enormous success serving the financial needs of low-wealth communities across the region.
About Us – Board of Directors | ACE Loans
Board Member: Grace Fricks, MBA.ACE President and CEO.
Fricks is the founder of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs and owner of a small business.
About Us – Staff | ACE Loans
GRACE FRICKS, President and CEO, MBA
Grace Fricks is the founder and CEO of Appalachian Community Enterprises (ACE), now known as Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs.
ACE is a non-profit organization and Community Development Financial Institution
that provides loans to start and grow businesses in Georgia.
ACE also offers its borrowers business development resources to create sustainable businesses.
Since 1999, ACE has provided more than $9 million in microloans thus creating or retaining more than 2500 jobs.
In 2009, ACE founded Georgia Green Loans
, www.georgiagreenloans.org, a statewide partnership providing loans to help small businesses "green-ovate.
currently serves on the national Appalachian Capital Advisory Committee of the Appalachian Regional Commission
(ARC), is a member of the Advisory Board for Enterprise to Empower (En2Em),a Georgia Institute of Technology
student-led organization and serves on the Policy Committee for Opportunity Finance
Fricks is a past member of the board of directors of the national trade association, Association for Enterprise Opportunity, (AEO) and is past treasurer of Georgia Microenterprise Network (GMEN).
Ms. Fricks, a small business owner for over 15 years, is a former board member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Atlanta chapter.
Other community work includes former Board of White County Rotary Club
and former Trustee of the Board of North Georgia Technical College
was the 2005 recipient of the Founders Award for GMEN.