February 2018

Woodforest National Bank® Teams Up With Association For Enterprise Opportunity On New Microbusiness Initiatives

The Woodlands, TX (February 21, 2018) – Woodforest National Bank and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) announced a new collaboration to build a groundbreaking solution to provide guidance and technical support to Main Street businesses so that they can grow and hire. The three-year initiative, which has multiple collaborators, is launching this month following a seed money grant from Woodforest to the nonprofit organization.

AEO research has found that despite numerous advancements in technology-enabled solutions to help business owners more effectively manage their businesses, there are still barriers to availability, access, and use of these tools among businesses in low-wealth communities. Microbusinesses in these communities often lack support systems and resources, which hinders their potential for growth. AEO’s analysis found that businesses that received guidance and technical support along with capital experienced significantly higher revenue growth rates compared to peers that didn't. A 2016 white paper issued by AEO titled, “Reimagining Technical Assistance,” asserted that with the right mix of resources and support systems, employment from microbusinesses in low-wealth communities alone could grow by more than 10 percent.

“The Woodforest grant presents a critical opportunity to help microbusinesses grow and hire, by getting them access to the capital and technical support they need,” said Connie Evans, President and CEO of AEO. “Think of what that would mean for our economy, especially in the distressed areas that often do not reap the benefits of a rising economy. Woodforest National Bank has always had a strong commitment to supporting Main Street, as shown by its early adoption of our myWay to Credit referral marketplace for community lenders and business mentors. We are honored to extend our collaboration to benefit more small business owners.”

The multi-year effort includes investment in scalable infrastructure and replicable tools for entrepreneurs and community organizations supported by multiple investors and technology partners. Both AEO and Woodforest National Bank are committed to innovating to better serve Main Street businesses in a measurable way. The collaboration will include three components:

  • An open source technology platform, developed in partnership with leading technology providers, that blends content delivery and knowledge management capabilities;
  • Pilot programs to test new product, service and delivery models that meet the needs of small business owners in low-wealth communities; and
  • Funding mechanisms with incentives for innovation and collaboration, including pay-for-performance models.

"We are thrilled to be working with AEO, to create ways for small businesses and entrepreneurs to bridge the digital divide," said Doug Schaeffer, CRA Executive Director, EVP, Woodforest National Bank. He continued, “Technology has changed the game for businesses that are now able to take advantage of new market opportunities. We look forward to helping AEO redefine what trusted guidance looks like for these underserved populations. This initiative is a crucial first step to ensuring that small businesses have access to the technologies and support that will help them expand and flourish.”

About Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is the leading voice of innovation in microfinance and microbusiness in the United States. Since 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 1,000 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. Together, we are working to change the way capital and services flow to underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all. To learn more about AEO please visit www.aeoworks.org.

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