ACE³: Microfinance Lending Program
The Access to Capital and Expertise for Emerging Entrepreneurs (ACE³) program supports women and minority business enterprises, disadvantaged business enterprises, and small disadvantaged business entities.
Call to Action:
The Access to Capital and Expertise for Emerging Entrepreneurs (ACE³) program was launched in 2013 at the Schroeder School of Business’ Institute for Banking and Finance, at the University of Evansville. ACE³ is an innovative microfinancing program that is student-managed and is co-supervised by a faculty member and a vice president at Old National Bank (ONB). It specializes in providing loans of up to 10,000 USD to women and minority business enterprises, disadvantaged business enterprises, and small disadvantaged business entities.
In June 2016, the city of Evansville received a federal 10-year Promise Zone designation to support neighborhoods in its urban core, near the University of Evansville. Nearly 22,500 residents live within the Promise Zone, which has an almost 39 percent poverty rate. The city of Evansville's goal for the Promise Zone includes, but is not limited to, providing support for new business establishments within a dynamic economic environment.
By fall of 2019, the Schroeder School had increased outreach efforts through the local Indiana Small Business Center (ISBDC), Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) Evansville, city government officials, and an ACE³ faculty advisor to aid in support for these businesses within the Promise Zone. Recent loan approvals and applications come from the Promise Zone, near downtown Evansville.
The ACE³ program is housed within the Schroeder School's Institute for Banking and Finance and works with city government officials, private enterprise at Old National Bank—Indiana’s largest bank, and the local Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC).
ONB provides the program with banking expertise, loan management tools, and a capital base of 100,000 USD. Further guidance is provided by the ISBDC, which provides provides business experts who mentor students throughout the loan application process. The program helps new and emerging businesses in the Evansville area, including underserved areas such as the Promise Zone by helping entrepreneurs formulate professional written business plans. Businesses that take part in the program not only receive a loan but also coaching and fresh perspectives on business strategies. Many clients have had limited experience with the banking industry or are even "unbanked." The ACE³ program looks to spread the understanding of financial principles in these underserved community areas and strengthen the region’s business climate.
Additionally, the University of Evansville houses a Center for Innovation & Change, which administers Embrace Marketing & Communications, a student-run marketing agency, and offers services to new and emerging businesses. The students, under faculty supervision, can offer capital and expertise to businesses within Evansville's Promise Zone. This program is innovative in that it brings students together, along with public, private, and governmental agencies to provide capital and expertise to new and emerging businesses within Evansville's Promise Zone.
The ACE³ program has numerous impacts on both student participants and the broader community. The students make a positive societal impact and acquire personal and professional skills through daily interaction with real clients and businesses. The Schroeder faculty member works to ensure that students achieve the learning outcomes of the program, which include the following:
- To define the content and purpose of modern business plans and work with borrowers to compose a professional business plan as a part of a commercial loan application
- To explain the role of banks as lending institutions to aid economic growth
- To apply knowledge to help applicants in running their businesses and achieving the business goals set forth in their business plan
- To make a significant societal impact working with entrepreneurs from underserved areas in the community
Since its inception, the ACE³ program has involved 45 students who have reviewed more than 60 loan applications and granted nine loans, with more under review. The lending fund currently stands at 70,000 USD, with outstanding balances on active loans at 30,000 USD. Over the past six years, ACE³ has generated returns over 6,000 USD. More importantly, it has helped nine businesses in the Evansville community that did not have easy access to capital.
ACE³ has enhanced student outcomes. Recent student placements include UBS, Ernst & Young, Old National Bank, and SS&C Technologies, among others. In addition, since 2015, ACE³ alumni have an average starting salary of 53,750 USD, an 11.9 percent increase over Schroeder School peers.