CEO Message

James S. Bzdyra receiving the award as the state’s top SBA MicroLender for the fifth consecutive year.

I am particularly proud of the CEDF team’s accomplishments in 2017 because, while
sharing heavier workloads and facing tighter budget constraints, we chalked up impressive results with 37 new client relationships and 54 new small business loans for nearly $3 million. CEDF, as an independent nonprofit, continues to pursue its mission of serving the state’s small businesses and entrepreneurs with the focus on those Connecticut communities in greatest need of economic assistance.

Acceleration is the word we think of as we recall the past year. Inspired by the trend among major nonprofits, we have moved the public version of our annual report to the internet — This past year CEDF launched its own new website design to more clearly communicate our offerings, help speed up the loan inquiry and application process, and create easier online registration for our live seminars and workshops around the state.

To increase the accessibility of our small business education programs, CEDF now has two substantial online courses for entrepreneurs hoping to start or grow their operations. We are also on the web with a monthly podcast series, Small Business As Usual, that deals with issues facing small business owners through the words of our clients. And we publish a monthly instructional newsletter, Chalkboard, dealing with topics in management, marketing and finance. In late 2017, we developed a quarterly newsletter, The Advance, for our stakeholders that highlights organizational activities and accomplishments.

To add impact to our service to aspiring and striving business owners, we have reached out to build more collaborative ties with organizations that share our mission, particularly SCORE mentors and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). When all economic development groups statewide work together more closely, good efforts turn into great results.

A key part of the economic ecosystem is the leadership of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. We appreciate all of its efforts in supporting CEDF and in helping to drive the state forward.

To improve delivery of our client business advisory services and prepare for expansion of our client base, we welcomed two new business advisors, Steven Adamo and Jennifer Avallone, both with many years of prior experience as small business owners. In fact, seven of CEDF’s 13 employees are former successful business owners.

We also bid adieu to long-time key staff member Nancy Gray upon her retirement. And we salute David Le Vasseur, who retired in May as Chairperson of the Foundation Board of Directors, having also served on the CEDF Corporation Board – a total of nearly 15 years of dedicated service to our organization.

Tragically, the CEDF family experienced the shock and deep sadness of the untimely passing of our Asset Manager, Tom Morrison.

Looking ahead to 2018, there is excitement in our organization as we enjoy the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from helping our clients seek and achieve their dreams. We look at our challenges as inspiration to improve and pursue our mission with renewed energy and vigor. So we are pleased to share this report with members of the Connecticut Legislature and welcome your questions and comments.

James S. Bzdyra

Strategic Goals and Outcomes

CEDF’s core-mission activities focus each year on three strategic goals:
1. Increase loan capital available for mission-focused lending to small businesses.

In 2017, CEDF raised an additional $750,000 in new loan capital from a long-term investor, Liberty Bank, which increased its investment, and CEDF welcomed Darien Rowayton Bank to our investor circle.

2. Increase efficiencies of the CEDF organization.

In 2017, CEDF launched a new website with a focus on servicing our customers and potential customers. The design makes it easier to understand and apply for our loan products and to register for our business education seminars and workshops.

In 2017, CEDF increased its capacity to provide Business Advisory Services to our 212 small business owner clients by hiring two additional full-time business advisors.

CEDF strives to employ individuals that understand the challenges and opportunities associated with owning a small business. Seven of thirteen or 54% of CEDF employees have previously owned and operated successful small businesses, including all of our Business Advisors, our Director of Lending, Chief Loan Underwriter and Loan Servicing Specialist.

3. Increase the effectiveness of the organization through expansion/enhancement of small business lending, business advisory, business education and community development programs.

Our strategy is to spread awareness of credit, resources and technical assistance available through CEDF as well as other community providers and lenders.

In 2017, CEDF increased lending originations by 50%, or 18 loans, and by 52%, or $1,010,355 in capital lent as compared to 2016.

In 2017, 33%, or 102 of the 311 inquiries received from prospective borrowers, resulted in completed loan applications being received and loan originations for 53% or 54 of the applications.
In 2017, CEDF implemented an initiative to develop or enhance community partnerships involving investor banks, local economic development agencies, SCORE chapters and the SBDC. The initiative included greater communication about the availability of CEDF’s services and the benefits we could bring to our partners. As a result, we saw an increase in the number of referrals from these partners, and originated an increased number of loans in new and existing communities. In 2018, we will deepen these relationships and concentrate on greater collaboration across the economic development sector.

In 2017, CEDF offered 12 seminars and workshops in Meriden, Norwich and Waterbury to 89 small business owners covering management, marketing and finance topics. We implemented several methods of alternative learning including podcasts with 409 listener engagements and new offerings in online learning through LinkedIn Learning and the My Own Business Institute with 36 individuals enrolled. We published nine instructional articles with 122 unique web views. In total, CEDF provided education to 645 individuals, reaching 478 or 286% more business owners and prospective owners than in 2016.