Day One

Resilient: Small Businesses Strengthening Local Economies


Whether businesses are selling goods or services, Main Street small businesses are essential to our local communities. In fact, they are the lifeblood of this country. Over the last few months, these businesses have faced unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Business owners are reinventing themselves on the fly to stay alive and local governments, mission-based community lenders, and business service providers are mobilizing in new ways to support businesses ranging from solopreneurs to companies of over 100. As we open the virtual conference, business owners, municipal leaders, and members of the microfinance community will explore how today’s crisis requires us to re-examine our strategies for helping small businesses survive. Join us in a wide-ranging conversation about bringing relief to businesses in the short term, supporting them to rebound in the near term, and building resilience for the long term. This is the perfect forum for you to gain insights through real-world case studies of entrepreneurial resilience.

Day Two

Women, Wealth, and Entrepreneurship 


Women play a special role in our society. They are caregivers. They run households. They start businesses at a rate that has been on the rise in the United States for the last two decades. From 1997 to 2017, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 114%. Even though the number of women-owned businesses is on the rise, women business owners still face an uphill battle. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Economic Forum projected that at the current rate of women’s progress, it would take 208 years to reach gender equality in the U.S. Now that the pandemic is here, how has it affected women? How do we collectively accelerate the momentum that women have started by opening their own businesses in order to change gender inequality? Join us as we begin to answer these questions in three segments that explore women, wealth, and entrepreneurship. Hear from researchers on The Gendered Impact of COVID-19 and learn the varied perspectives on women’s economic equality from a panel of leading women entrepreneurs as they discuss The Female Paradox. Of course, we could not have a discussion about women and entrepreneurship without talking about money–the constant uphill battle for women. In closing this segment on women, we will examine Capital Access: What’s in Store for Women in a COVID 19-infused Recession.  

Day Three

Equitable Entrepreneurship 

At a time of widening inequality and an accelerating climate crisis, we need new standards, new tools, new norms, and much more to achieve a better future for all. Currently, there are major gaps that economically disenfranchise returning citizens and people of color who are pursuing entrepreneurship. A more inclusive economy with more broadly shared prosperity will demand a brand new system. In the wake of COVID-19, leaders across philanthropy, social justice, and entrepreneurship are being challenged to rethink strategies for designing a bold new system that works for all entrepreneurs. Join us for several conversations that explore what a system of equitable entrepreneurship looks like. We’ll start with Designing a New System: Equitable Entrepreneurship, which will open a bold and provocative conversation on how we create an ecosystem to ensure increasedequity in access to entrepreneurial support. We’ll round out the segment with Vision and Voices for Returning Citizens, a virtual town hall moderated by renowned journalist Roland Martin that explores how entrepreneurship can help people reentering society from prison or jail proactively engage with their families and communities.

Day Four

Preparing Entrepreneurs, Equipping Practitioners


Panel 1: The AEO Team has talked to hundreds of business service providers in the last three months who say they are seriously challenged in finding ways to help business owners during the crisis. Staffs are dispersed and working from home with very limited resources to offer their clients who need everything at this moment to keep their business alive. Join us to explore how a collaboration of trusted partnerships with science and technology are making it possible for business owners to access everything they need from the people they trust to strengthen their capability to stay in business.

Panel 2: More often than not, small business owners hold the title of “Chief Everything Officer.” In addition to providing a product or service in the midst of COVID-19, these entrepreneurs still have to deal with all the other facets of running a business. That’s where fintech comes into play. By adapting trends in the corporate space to fit the microbusiness ecosystem, fintech companies and business service providers are helping these business owners to endure current market conditions, while positioning them to thrive in the future. Join us for a thought-provoking conversation on how current technological trends in the wider market are expanding opportunities for microbusinesses to succeed as we explore how fintech companies can reveal deeper insight into their health and their needs.

Panel 3: The pandemic and subsequent relief efforts are worsening inequality. Black people are dying of Covid-19 at higher rates than White people because of systemic racism. People of color, rural communities, women, veterans, and a longer list of people in need are not getting the resources they deserve. This is a time for swift, deliberate, and wide reaching policy action. Everyone in our industry has been called upon to join in the struggle for a more equitable response to COVID-19. It has been said that we should never let a crisis go to waste. Is this a time to get long-waged reforms into policy? Should we stick to a focus on what is needed right now for relief or push for more? Join us to explore the new Page30 Coalition and other advocacy calls to action. 


Day Five

Philanthropy: Show Me the Money


Looking for new approaches that will have funders showing you the money? You will want to join this segment. For many nonprofits, the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating weaknesses, leaving them with no choice but to reexamine their business model. Most nonprofits rely on philanthropy and philanthropy doesn’t usually move fast. If you ever heard of the color theory, you know that color is more than what meets the eye. The same can be said about philanthropy. This robust segment will explore how the philanthropy and social investment (impact investing) sectors are responding to the pandemic, and share how nonprofit leaders can be strategic and innovative to garner the financial resources they need to actualize their various missions. Join us as we launch this segment with a talk called, What Now Philanthropy? Stay tuned for the entire segment that features a panel of grant makers who will discuss The Color of Philanthropy: Grantmaking, followed by a panel of investors titled, The Color of Philanthropy: Impact Investing. The segment will conclude with a powerful fire side chat with Kathryn Finney and Soledad O’Brien on Creating Systems Change through Innovation and Investment in Entrepreneurship.


Day Six

Black Business: Restart, Recovery, and Renewal

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Black communities and will impose an additional burden on Black-owned businesses, which already deal with a vicious cycle of structural barriers and disadvantages. AEO’s report, The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America, shows that the interlinkage of the racial wealth gap, the credit gap, and the trust gap act like kryptonite in keeping Black-owned businesses from reaching their potential. Join us in this session as we explore What’s Happening to Black Businesses NOW! A diverse cross-section of leaders from across the country will discuss Bold Actions to Rescue Black Business Owners and a panel will share what we are learning from six cities across the country that are focused on serving Black businesses in a wide ranging discussion among Business Voices from the Tapestry Action Lab.

Day Seven

Getting Into the Weeds of Lending

In the microfinance space, it’s a jungle out there as businesses fight for their livelihoods and survival. These businesses struggled to secure the capital they needed before the pandemic, and that struggle is now even more pronounced. Far too many capital providers, whether they are CDFIs or traditional financial institutions, consider microbusinesses and growth businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color as too risky. Join this incredibly robust session, Underwriting Loans in a COVID-19 infused Recession to explore how community lenders are de-risking loans and getting capital to support businesses in their community. If we are to change the way capital flows to underserved entrepreneurs, we must address the infrastructure for lending. A broad set of lenders from CDFIs, traditional banks and fintech will take on this issue in the session, Building Better Capital Pipelines to Get Entrepreneurs the Money they Need and another entitled, Stronger Together: Can Banks, CDFIs, and Fintech Lenders Combine Capabilities to Improve Customer Referrals for Small Business Lending?


Day Eight

Lunch and Learn – Equity in a New Food Economy

Grab your favorite dish and join us for a provocative and enlightening lunch conversation on strategies around creating equitable food systems that can empower underserved farmers, restauranteurs, and the organizations that serve them.