AEO 2017 Year in Review

Dear AEO Community:
It is hard to believe that 2017 is almost over. When I reflect on everything AEO has accomplished over the last 12 months, I am reminded of how important our work is, and the tremendous impact it has on underserved entrepreneurs, their families and their communities. And we could not have done it without our incredible members, partners and funders — your support and partnership are critical to the work we do to create opportunity for Main Street and microbusiness owners, and I am deeply grateful to you all.
Here are some of the highlights from 2017, and sneak peek of what’s to come in 2018:
Our government relations team was able to stay focused on AEO’s policy priorities throughout 2017, despite a wealth of political distractions. We began efforts to secure FY 2018 appropriations in February; working with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the funding secured came in at, or near, AEO’s FY 2018 funding requests. This proved vital in securing the highest appropriations level ever for the CDFI Fund — which had been eliminated in the President’s budget request — in the FY 2017 omnibus passed in early May.
AEO also engaged on tax reform, urging Congressional tax writers to provide parity to pass-through small businesses. In part, due to this advocacy, both versions of the tax bill have a small business carve-out for pass-through entities. Other priorities such as the New Market Tax Credit and the language of S. 293, the “Investing in Opportunities Act of 2017” — endorsed by AEO — were included in the Senate bill.
In March, we released “The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success,” funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The report assessed the economic strength and potential of Black-owned businesses, and identified challenges and opportunities across multiple segments. The feedback we received was tremendous, with many organizations telling us they cited the findings in funding proposals as well as other areas of their work. It was also widely covered in the media and shared with members of Congress, including the Congressional Black Caucus, as evidence of the need for funding to support underserved entrepreneurs.
In August, AEO was recognized by IBM for our use of data-driven research to drive social impact, specifically the initiative behind our “The Big Picture: A Larger View of the Small Business Market” study.
AEO continued to develop, pilot and launch innovative solutions to address the market failure on Main Street that disproportionately affects the people and places across the U.S. that most need a fair shot at opportunity. The TILT Forward Network grew to 39 member organizations in 2017, and held its first network-wide in-person convening in December. Participants gathered in Washington, D.C., to connect with peers, review progress to date and problem-solve together. Momentum and engagement are strong, and we’re excited about what is to come in the new year.

2017 marked the launch of myWay to Credit, the referral marketplace that connects small business owners to mentors and credit options from community lenders when their bank can’t serve them directly. This year also marked an important milestone for DreamFund: Fifty small businesses that did not qualify for a bank loan, and would otherwise have been declined by a CDFI, were able to access capital through a participating CDFI. Finally, we continued our critical efforts to reimagine technical assistance by asking this question: Are there opportunities to bridge the digital divide by designing new models of technical assistance that bring best-of-breed technology solutions and trusted guidance to business owners in a manner that yields measurable business success?
None of AEO’s innovation work would be possible without the generous financial support of BB&T, BNB, Capital One, The Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Woodforest National Bank.
AEO hosted several events in 2017, including two Small Business Roundtables that gathered small business owners in Baltimore in July and Washington, D.C., in September for a conversation with Associate Administrator of the Office of Capital Access at the SBA William Manger about what entrepreneurs of color need to succeed.
Also in September, we hosted our Future Youth Startup Summit, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. This “unconference” gathered professionals working with 16 youth entrepreneurial programs from around the country to share best practices and identify barriers to scale.
AEO Board of Directors
In September, we welcomed eight new members to the AEO Board or Directors, bringing the total to 23 distinguished professionals committed to small business initiatives that promote entrepreneurial excellence. In December, we hosted the final board meeting of 2017 at AEO’s Washington, D.C., office, and held a joint reception which gathered members of both the board and the TILT Forward Network.
Looking Ahead
We are thrilled to bring our 2018 National Microbusiness Conference to Detroit, Michigan, April 30 to May 2. Moving Main Street Forward will gather hundreds of microbusiness and microfinance professionals from across the nation to share, network and collaborate on ways we can move Main Street forward through inclusion, innovation and investment. I want to give a special thanks to our amazing Host Committee, who generously volunteer their time to ensure that the conference will be a great success, and to Lead Sponsor and AEO partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., for their continued support. For a limited time you can register for just $350, so we hope you’ll take advantage of this Early Bird rate and sign up today. For more information or to register, visit
So as you can see, it has been a busy year here at AEO! I wish each of you a wonderful holiday, and look forward to working with you in 2018 on ways to support underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all.
Connie Evans
President and CEO
P.S. For more information about AEO membership, click here. And if you’d like to support AEO, you can click here to make a donation.