Opportunity Finance Network Convenes Experts to Tackle Investing in the Nation’s Most Underserved Small Businesses 

The 10th Annual Small Business Finance Forum brings hundreds of community development financial institutions to Chicago to advance equitable small business lending in rural, urban, and Native communities  

Washington, D.C. — Entrepreneurship surged during the pandemic, and with it, a demand for small business financing that continues today. Yet, inflation, rising interest rates, and bank failures have led to market instability and lending constrictions. For Black, low-income, women, and minority small business owners, long-standing financing gaps make it even harder to access critical startup or growth capital.  

In this type of environment, where traditional banks pull back, mission-driven community lenders lean in.  

On June 20-21, more than 400 practitioners, partners, and investors of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) will gather in Chicago for the tenth annual Small Business Finance Forum, a premier industry event for small business lenders advancing a just and equitable financing environment for small businesses underserved by mainstream finance.  

Hosted by Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the leading national network of CDFIs, the sold-out forum explores how CDFIs can continue, even in challenging economic times, to successfully deliver capital and other critical services to the nation’s smallest and most under-resourced businesses. 

The event will feature a conversation between OFN’s new president and CEO, Harold Pettigrew Jr., and SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman. Additionally, more than 20 breakout sessions will focus on small business research, impact, partnerships, product innovations, public policy, and more. Longer workshop-style courses will offer professional development opportunities on topics such as the CDFI industry’s history and mission and climate lending that supports environmental justice. 

CDFIs are lenders that specialize in serving communities that mainstream finance perceives as risky or unprofitable. Where others see risk, CDFIs see opportunity and offer responsible financing products to help low-income, low-wealth small businesses launch, grow, and thrive. More than capital providers, CDFIs also provide training, coaching, and support when entrepreneurs need it.  

Recognized as financial first responders in economic crises, CDFIs were instrumental in delivering $34 billion of pandemic-related emergency relief to vulnerable small businesses, outperforming larger lenders during the pandemic. 

In 2021, the nation’s approximately 1400 certified CDFIs managed a small business loan portfolio of more than $25 billion.  

Media Contact: 

Lisa Chensvold 
Opportunity Finance Network