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Q&A with CEO Ceyl Prinster Before 2014 OFN Conference in Denver


Where does your CDFI work? What regions and communities does it serve?

 

Colorado Enterprise Fund serves the entire State of Colorado. Our State is geographically large and varied, with the Rocky Mountains running down the middle from north to South. The major population center is along what we call the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains consisting of our large major-urban area of Denver Metro and Boulder and the fast-growing minor-urban areas to the north and south of Denver. In addition, we have the rural plains communities to the east and the mountain communities to the west of the Front Range. We are based in Denver with one satellite office in Fort Collins. Our population is growing significantly faster than the national average due to in-migration.

 

What’s “different” about your CDFI? Does it operate under special circumstances, fill a particular niche, and/or have any unusual or innovative programming?

 

CEF is a pioneer among CDFIs. It was founded 38 years ago to help the Denver community address the needs of blighted neighborhoods by providing financing to businesses where banks would not lend. We have been making loans to help socially and economically disadvantaged businesses ever since. We were one of the first community development business loan funds in the country and were an early adopter of many “signature” CDFI programs, including CDFI certification and Awards, SBA small business loan Program, EQ2s, Community Advantage and Healthy Foods Financing Fund. The CDFI industry was mainly built around housing organizations, but CEF was one of the few business CDFIs for many years, exclusively making small business loans and later expanding to small business loans as we grew.

 

We are a small business state, with over 94% of businesses having less than 20 employees. Frequently cited among national surveys for our favorable entrepreneurial environment, CEF works with many startups in all industries, with the most challenging in technology, environmental and food product innovation that otherwise lack access to capital. One aspect of our programming that is unique is our technical assistance system that quantifies and measures business progress in 27 different practice areas necessary for business success, then combines that with targeted counseling and education.

 

What drew you personally to the industry? What keeps you here? How does your background inform your work?

 

I come from a family of small town entrepreneurs in the grocery industry where I learned how hard work, persistence, and a vision can grow a business from dream to reality. My grandfather and his brothers, then my father and his brothers worked together to start their small town store that eventually expanded to a regional supermarket chain across Western Colorado. From them, I learned the entrepreneurial spirit that inspires me to help others have the same kind of success and also informs my work at CEF. 


In college, I majored in Theology where I studied great thinkers in social justice and values. I was involved with activism around international hunger relief efforts and developed community service programs as a student and then later for my alumni association that are still active today. These experiences ignited my passion to serve the disadvantaged through my work.

 

After gaining experience as a commercial lender at bank, the opportunity to work for CEF combined my love of entrepreneurship and finance with my passion to serve the underserved. I have stayed in the industry because it continues to evolve with new challenges, opportunities and markets. I am energized by partnering with other organizations in New Markets Tax Credit transactions and Healthy Foods Financing. I love feeling the impact of my work just driving around the city and seeing how our businesses have become part of the community fabric and knowing that we have helped people achieve the American Dream. 

 

What have you learned during your time as a CDFI practitioner?

 

When I started with Colorado Enterprise Fund, there was no CDFI industry as there is today. One of my former banker colleagues called my new job with a neighborhood loan fund a “little social project.” I have learned that having a core purpose and a vision will help you build a strong foundation, and that persistence and creativity working towards that vision will pay off in the long run. I see this every day in the entrepreneurs we work with – they see some gap in the marketplace that they know how to address. As CDFI practitioners we see that not everyone is well-served by the financial markets. Our work is forging systemic change to allow fair and equitable access to capital to all members of our society. I am so proud to be a part of that effort. 

 

Are there policy issues you're especially interested in?

 

As the CEO of a smaller CDFI making business loans, there are several major programs that are difficult for us to utilize, including the Bond Guarantee, Capital Access and New Markets Tax Credits Programs. Yet entrepreneurship and local small business ownership is one of the best paths for people to build wealth and community prosperity. Expansion or modifications of these or other national programs in a way to help smaller CDFIs achieve greater scale is important if our CDFI industry is to achieve widespread impact across all geographies and sectors. Some of the programs under the recent Jobs Act were very effective and could be replicated for additional impact.

   

I would also like to see us explore measures to encourage private sector investment in CDFIs such as individual and corporate tax credits at either the State or Federal level beyond the standard charitable deduction for a donation. 

 

What major challenges or opportunities do you see facing CDFIs nationally? What sort of progress would you like to see across the CDFI industry as a whole over the next few years?

 

As a participant in the recent CHASE Cluster grants nationally and also a Kresge Foundation collaborative project locally, I see the opportunity to forge more and better collaborations across sectors and geographies to leverage our individual CDFI impact. We’re still inventing the CDFI industry – innovating new ways of working together to align capital with justice. That’s exciting!

 

I also see immense opportunity for CDFIs to influence the development of the impact investing sector. Individuals (wealthy and not-so-wealthy), foundations and corporations are looking for ways that their investment dollars can make a difference in the world as well as give a fair financial return. CEF is a participant in the new Calvert “Ours-to-Own” Campaign making local investment in CDFIs available to all levels of investors. We need to tell the stories and provide data about how CDFIs are a safe and effective vehicle for these investors and develop new ways for them to invest.

 

The rise of online business lending platforms presents challenges and opportunities. On one hand it creates a new competitor. Like the over-reach of predatory lending in housing, these systems pose similar threats. On the other hand, they bring new and different investors into the financial system and new modes of accessing capital f

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Blog Archives

November 2017

Where to Find CEF - November 2017 - 11/01/2017

October 2017

We Salute Our Veteran-Owned Small Businesses as of 2017 - 10/30/2017
From the President's Desk - Fall 2017 Reflections - 10/24/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of September 30 2017 - 10/05/2017
Where to Find CEF - October 2017 - 10/02/2017

September 2017

We're hiring: Staff Accountant II (New!) - 09/25/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of August 31 2017 - 09/20/2017
Where to Find CEF - September 2017 - 09/01/2017

August 2017

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of July 31 2017 - 08/10/2017
Where to Find CEF - August 2017 - 08/01/2017

July 2017

Where to Find CEF - July 2017 - 07/10/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of June 30 2017 - 07/06/2017

June 2017

We're hiring: Director of Development (New!) - 06/13/2017
We're hiring: Director of Finance and Administration - 06/07/2017
We're hiring: Commercial Loan Processor & Closer - 06/02/2017
Where to Find CEF - June 2017 - 06/01/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of May 31 2017 - 06/01/2017

May 2017

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of April 30, 2017 - 05/12/2017
Free Workshop: Crafting Success - From Home Brews to Beer Biz - 05/05/2017
May 1 Refugee and Immigrant Small Business Tour in Aurora - 05/01/2017
2017 Colorado Small Business Week - CEF Activities at a Glance - 05/01/2017
Where to Find Colorado Enterprise Fund - May 2017 - 05/01/2017

April 2017

We're hiring: Special Assistant to the President and CEO/ Executive Office Coordinator - 04/27/2017
CEF Celebrates National Small Business Week 2017 with Free Workshop and SBA Colorado Community Lender of the Year Award - 04/13/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of March 31, 2017 - 04/07/2017
Where to Find Colorado Enterprise Fund - April 2017 - 04/03/2017

March 2017

FY 2018 Federal Budget Proposal Eliminates Key Resource for Economic Growth in Low-Income Colorado Communities - 03/28/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of February 28, 2017 - 03/06/2017
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - March 2017 - 03/01/2017

February 2017

Diverse, Inclusive, Prosperous - 02/21/2017
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of January 31, 2017 - 02/10/2017
Where to Find Colorado Enterprise Fund - February 2017 - 02/01/2017

January 2017

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of December 31, 2016 - 01/05/2017
Where to Find Colorado Enterprise Fund - January 2017 - 01/03/2017

December 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of November 30, 2016 - 12/09/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - December 2016 - 12/01/2016

November 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of October 31, 2016 - 11/10/2016
Calvert Foundation launches 2016 Small Business Competition - 11/04/2016
Saluting Our Veteran-Owned Small Businesses for Their Service - 11/03/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - November 2016 - 11/01/2016

October 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of September 30, 2016 - 10/07/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - October 2016 - 10/03/2016

September 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of August 31, 2016 - 09/06/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - September 2016 - 09/01/2016

August 2016

Colorado Enterprise Fund is leaning in to help small business - 08/31/2016
Welcome New and Returning Clients - As of July 31, 2016 - 08/15/2016
Growth of online lending options for small business - healthy or harmful? - 08/12/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - August 2016 - 08/01/2016

July 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of June 30, 2016 - 07/22/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - July 2016 - 07/01/2016

June 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of May 31, 2016 - 06/06/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - June 2016 - 06/01/2016

May 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of April 30, 2016 - 05/12/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - May 2016 - 05/02/2016

April 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of March 31, 2016 - 04/14/2016
Start-Up Financing for the First-Time Entrepreneur - 04/12/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - April 2016 - 04/04/2016

March 2016

Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of February 29, 2016 - 03/07/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - March 2016 - 03/01/2016

February 2016

Colorado Enterprise Fund Named as CO Impact Days Social Venture Finalist - 02/26/2016
Borrower Buzz: A Touch of Bliss - 02/26/2016
Borrower Buzz: Emtek - 02/18/2016
We're hiring: Commercial Loan Processor and Closer - 02/18/2016
Borrower Buzz: Missy J's - 02/15/2016
Once upon a time - 02/12/2016
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of January 31, 2016 - 02/08/2016
Borrower Buzz: True Vos - 02/08/2016
Colorado Enterprise Fund Creates Microloan Fund with City of Loveland - 02/04/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - February 2016 - 02/01/2016

January 2016

We're hiring: Small Business Consultant (bilingual) - 01/28/2016
Borrower Buzz: CandyGrind - 01/25/2016
Borrower Buzz: Icebox Knitting - 01/18/2016
Borrower Buzz: Dragonfly Apparel - 01/11/2016
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - January 2016 - 01/07/2016
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of December 31, 2015 - 01/05/2016

December 2015

Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of November 30, 2015 - 12/09/2015
Meet Colorado Enterprise Fund's New Board Members - 12/07/2015
Countdown to Colorado Gives Day - Tue Dec 8 - 12/02/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - December 2015 - 12/01/2015

November 2015

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Provides $3 million to Colorado Enterprise Fund - 11/18/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of October 31, 2015 - 11/13/2015
We Salute Our Veteran-Owned Small Businesses - 11/06/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - November 2015 - 11/02/2015

October 2015

Welcome New Clients! As of September 30, 2015 - 10/26/2015
Governor Hickenlooper Proclaims October 15 Colorado Enterprise Fund Day - 10/15/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - October 2015 - 10/01/2015
We're hiring: Senior Commercial Loan Officer and Commercial Loan Officer - 10/01/2015

September 2015

Colorado Enterprise Fund Receives $2 Million Award from US Treasury Department's CDFI Fund - 09/11/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - September 2015 - 09/04/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of August 31, 2015 - 09/04/2015

August 2015

Borrower Buzz: The Drake Law Firm - 08/19/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of July 31, 2015 - 08/10/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - August 2015 - 08/03/2015

July 2015

Colorado Enterprise Fund receives $15K grant from Xcel Energy to boost small business services - 07/30/2015
Longmont small businesses thriving thanks to Colorado Enterprise Fund loan program - 07/26/2015
Borrower Buzz: Advanced Traffic Services - 07/20/2015
Borrower Buzz: RollinGreens - 07/15/2015
Colorado Enterprise Fund Featured in CHFA Fresh Food Financing Fund Newsletter - 07/13/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of June 30, 2015 - 07/08/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - July 2015 - 07/01/2015

June 2015

Big impact on small business - 06/22/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of May 31, 2015 - 06/18/2015
Borrower Buzz: Jumpin Good Goat Dairy - 06/18/2015
See the big impact Colorado Enterprise Fund had on small business in 2014 (infographic) - 06/16/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - June 2015 - 06/01/2015

May 2015

Borrower Buzz: Knotty Tie Company - 05/28/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of April 30, 2015 - 05/13/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - May 2015 - 05/01/2015

April 2015

Prosperity for all - 04/30/2015
SBA Names Colorado Enterprise Fund Community/Rural Lender of the Year - 04/23/2015
Borrower Buzz: Thriving Systems Design - 04/19/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of March 31, 2015 - 04/16/2015
Colorado Enterprise Fund Hires Healthy Food Program Manager - 04/06/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - April 2015 - 04/01/2015

March 2015

Power in Numbers - 03/30/2015
Borrower Buzz: Atlantic International Trading - 03/26/2015
We're mentoring: Marketing and Communications Intern - 03/16/2015
Meet Our Business Acceleration Services (BAS) Consulting Team - 03/12/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of February 28, 2015 - 03/10/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - March 2015 - 03/02/2015

February 2015

Building Capacity - 02/26/2015
Welcome New and Returning Clients! As of January 31, 2015 - 02/20/2015
OFN and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Announce Finance Collaborative Participants - 02/19/2015
Colorado Enterprise Fund Borrowers Accepted into Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses National Training Program - 02/16/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - February 2015 - 02/02/2015

January 2015

Diversity in action - 01/29/2015
Borrower Buzz: Maria Empanada - 01/29/2015
Nick Massie of Colorado Enterprise Fund Chosen for Prestigious Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance - 01/26/2015
Borrower Buzz: Blue Skies Massage & Wellness - 01/22/2015
Board member launches Kansas City BBQ competition at National Western Stock Show - 01/14/2015
Colorado Enterprise Fund Receives $30K Grant from The Denver Foundation - 01/12/2015
Welcome New Clients! As of December 31, 2014 - 01/07/2015
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - January 2015 - 01/07/2015

December 2014

dream. believe. celebrate! - 12/18/2014
Success and prosperity for all - 12/18/2014
Borrower Buzz: Discovery Kids Child Care - 12/11/2014
Welcome New Clients! As of November 30, 2014 - 12/09/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund Announces New Board Appointments - 12/04/2014
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - December 2014 - 12/01/2014

November 2014

Borrower Buzz: Basket World & Supplies - Embracing Change to Succeed - 11/21/2014
Pay It Forward - 11/19/2014
Welcome New Clients! As of October 31, 2014 - 11/13/2014
Introducing Small Biz Builder - our new tool for borrowers - 11/10/2014
Saluting Veteran-Owned Small Businesses - 11/06/2014
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - November 2014 - 11/03/2014

October 2014

Diversifying Our Impact - 10/31/2014
Small Biz Insider - Opportunity for All - 10/31/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund is Hiring - Commercial Loan Processor/Closer - 10/21/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund Clients Mondo Guerra and Let Em Have It Salon Featured in Westword's Top Denver Draws - 10/20/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund CEO and other Top Company Award Winners Gather in Napa to Highlight Best Practices - 10/20/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund's Black Shirt Brewing Company Shares Steps to Success in the Denver Post - 10/17/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund Hosts Sold-Out Microbrewery Tour for 2014 OFN Conference - 10/14/2014
Hear Ceyl's interview for the 2014 OFN Board - 10/10/2014
Q&A with CEO Ceyl Prinster Before 2014 OFN Conference in Denver - 10/09/2014
Colorado Enterprise Fund Featured in Three Sessions at 2014 OFN Conference - 10/07/2014
Welcome New Clients! As of September 30, 2014 - 10/02/2014
Where to find Colorado Enterprise Fund - October 2014 - 10/01/2014
Borrower Buzz: Brown Water Coffee - Changing Lives a Cup at a Time - 10/01/2014

September 2014

Small Biz Insider - Coming Together - 09/30/2014
Our Collective Bounty - 09/26/2014
Borrower Buzz: Mondo Guerra - Creating Compassion through Fashion - 09/24/2014
Welcome New Clients! As of August 31, 2014 - 09/23/2014
Missed Colorado Enterprise Fund at an event? Catch us on a webinar. - 09/15/2014
Where to Find Colorado Enterprise Fund - September 2014 - 09/09/2014

August 2014

CEF Receives 2014 Top Company-Nonprofit Award from ColoradoBiz Magazine - 08/29/2014
It Takes a Community - 08/28/2014
Borrower Buzz: Cranelli's - Success is a Family Affair - 08/27/2014
Welcome New Clients! As of July 31, 2014 - 08/27/2014
CEF is Nonprofit Finalist - 08/12/2014
An Intern's Impressions of CEF - 08/07/2014

July 2014

Batting a 1000 - 07/30/2014
Welcome New Clients! As of June 30, 2014 - 07/30/2014
CEF is helping small businesses in Longmont, too! - 07/21/2014
Borrower Buzz: Let Em Have It Salon - Mentoring Success - 07/01/2014

June 2014

Borrower Buzz: RollinGreens - Comfort Food - 06/30/2014
Borrower Buzz: The Crunchy Grocer - Healthy Eating - 06/30/2014


Recent Comments

Diversity in action
MIchael Miera said: Ceyl, I appreciate your words on diversity.   [more]

Success and prosperity for all
Janie Barrera said: Congratulations on a great year!   [more]

Borrower Buzz: The Crunchy Grocer - Healthy Eating
Shahriar khan said: Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chan ...   [more]

Borrower Buzz: The Crunchy Grocer - Healthy Eating
Alisa said: Here are some other websites with more info: http://livewellcolorado.org/healthy-living https://www. ...   [more]

Borrower Buzz: The Crunchy Grocer - Healthy Eating
Alisa said: Thanks Shahriar for your kind comments. The best source for healthy living content would be The Crun ...   [more]

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