Association for Enterprise Opportunity Initiative Supports Main Street and Small Businesses

June 9, 2015

WASHINGTON– The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) announced today that a $2.7 million grant from the Sam’s Club Giving Program will help launch their TILT Forward Initiative, which improves access to capital for millions of small business owners and entrepreneurs on Main Streets and in neighborhoods throughout the country.


AEO President and CEO Connie Evans said the TILT Forward Initiative addresses a “market failure” in business lending, noting that 8,000 business loan requests are declined each work day by financial institutions, according to the Treasury Department. Those declines cause an estimated capital shortfall of$44 to $52 billion annually, which is slowing job growth and negatively impacting the nation’s economy.


The TILT Forward Initiative brings best-in-class product, marketing and capital solutions to a network of community and non-profit lenders.  The Initiative allows small businesses, including 11 million Main Street businesses located in underserved communities, to have better and quicker access to some of the lowest rates available.


“Thanks to the generous gift from the Sam’s Club Giving Program, the TILT Forward Initiative will provide market-based solutions to support the nation’s smallest businesses, including many located on Main Streets across the country,” Evans said, noting that the collaboration is uniting the private sector, philanthropic organizations and nonprofits to improve access to capital for small and microbusinesses.

“The TILT Forward Initiative is a cross-sector collaboration that will provide community and non-profit lenders with cutting edge technology and innovative products to simplify the loan process, help create jobs, and boost local economies,” Evans said. “We want to remove the barriers for small businesses so their owners can do what they do best: run their businesses.”

AEO,a trade association representing more than 400 mission-driven lenders and business support organizations, developed the TILT Forward Initiative to help community and non-profit lenders and business service providers dramatically expand their capacity to empower entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. The program benefits small businesses and microbusinesses (businesses with five or fewer employees) from coast to coast.  The Sam’s Club Giving Program grant is enabling the TILT Forward Initiative to move from a pilot program to a full launch.


“TILT Forward is an innovative program with dual potential to impact business owners at the community-level while systematically improving the mission-driven, non-bank lending network across the country.” said Gayatri Agnew, Director, Opportunity at the Walmart Foundation and Sam’s Club Giving Program. “Our support for AEO reinforces our mission to bridge the access-to-capital gap for underserved business owners, help scale mission driven lenders and better serve American entrepreneurs so they can grow their businesses and create jobs.”


During a pilot program run by AEO, more than $1 million in loans were originated through the TILT Forward Initiative by Justine PETERSEN in St. Louis, and The Intersect Fund in New Jersey, two high-performing non-profit lenders known as CDFIs (community development financial institutions).  AEO licensed the technology enabling the screening, servicing and underwriting of loans from OnDeck® (NYSE: ONDK), a leading platform for small business loans. Each CDFI lender sets pricing for the licensed products. The CDFIs offer a wide range of loan products and other services to businesses. Small business owners benefit from access to capital at some of the lowest prices on the market.


“These loans are critical to the nation’s smallest businesses,” Evans said. “By expanding the availability of affordable financing for small businesses, the TILT Forward Initiative will create jobs, reduce unemployment, and stabilize local communities.”


AEO is committed to local and microbusiness development and making financial capital available to underserved small business owners and entrepreneurs.  Its member network helps entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth while supporting themselves, their families, and their communities.


Evans pointed to the story of Michael Temm, owner of Wedding Wonderland Cake Shop in Florissant, Missouri. When a local wholesale cake shop went out of business, his bakery picked up 33 new accounts. But Mr. Temm had to max out his credit cards to purchase more equipment to service the new customers. He also needed the funds to pay his employees. After paying back high interest credit cards for several years, he sought bank loans, but was repeatedly turned down despite his good credit.


Finally, a local bank told Mr. Temm about the TILT Forward pilot. He was approved, and within days the funds were deposited into his account and his business was on the road to solvency. “It wasn’t stressful at all,” he said. “It was a hassle to apply to the traditional banks. It’s wonderful to know that I can go back to the same program and get the funds that I need to keep growing my business.”


Rob Boyle, founder and CEO of Justine PETERSEN, said, “As a CDFI that is forever in need of an additional source of capital to meet the seemingly unabated demand from small businesses, we at Justine PETERSEN view the TILTForward Initiative as a vital part of the solution to this capitalization conundrum.”


Data show that microbusinesses contribute to the employment of an astounding 41.3 million individuals — 31 percent of private sector employment in America. Yet Evans said the TILT Forward Initiative is needed since many small business owners can’t access capital or support services. Furthermore, lawmakers and policymakers frequently overlook their importance to the nation’s economy.

“With the assistance of the Sam’s Club Giving Program and others, we are providing critical network infrastructure that will better enable participating community and non-profit lenders and business service providers to partner with banks, government agencies, and social impact investors to channel resources and services to the smallest businesses,” Evans said. “This will be a tremendous boost to the economy. If one in three Main Street microbusinesses hire one employee, the U.S. would reach full employment.”


Learn more about TILT Forward at


About Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity(AEO) is the voice of microbusiness in the United States. For nearly 25 years, AEO and its more than 400 member organizations have helped millions of entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth while supporting themselves, their families and their communities. AEO 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 that capital and services flow to underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all.  Learn more about The Association for Enterprise Opportunity at