President's Message

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

It was a milestone year of accomplishments for CEDF in 2019.

What a great way to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary by building numerous new client relationships during the year and originating nearly 40 loans to new and existing clients. As a mission-driven nonprofit, we continue our dedication to building the economic health of Connecticut communities requiring the most assistance while serving low and moderate-income small business owners across the entire state.

The SBA recognized CEDF for the seventh consecutive year as the state’s leading Microlender, and I was honored to be named the 2019 Connecticut Financial Services Champion.

We took the time to thank our clients and other stakeholders for their involvement in CEDF’s success with an anniversary reception in October at the New Britain Museum of American Art. This handsome venue provided a fitting toast to the work so many have contributed to supporting the growth and stability of our state over a quarter century.

We gave special promotion to two other educational events in 2019 that we intend to repeat annually. Our business management-focused workshop featured experts on cyber security enhancement and the related legal considerations. CEDF also highlighted the special challenges facing female business owners and professionals by launching our Women’s Business Success conference.

CEDF further bolstered its Business Education Center (BEC) with the addition of webinars to its programming offerings. We conducted 10 webinar programs in 2019 in addition to 16 live seminars and multi-night workshops. We also added 15 programs to our website library of recorded presentations, giving busy entrepreneurs and small business owners on-demand access to our best programming. Our BEC student engagements totaled more than 1,700 in 2019. CEDF also added to its learning management system website. Now, in addition to our five-part financial fundamentals course, we also have 22 video segments of QuickBooks Pro Desktop instruction. This means our most popular recurring educational programming is now available on-demand to all small business owners and entrepreneurs across Connecticut.

By developing deeper collaborations with community partners such as SCORE, the CT Small Business Development Center, the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center and the state’s two Women’s Business Centers, all partners of the U.S. Small Business Administration, CEDF was able to expand the reach of its services. Each of these organizations pitched in to help promote our BEC offerings, and CEDF offered event space, sponsorship or participation to our partners’ programs.

We further strengthened our lending team with the addition of Michael Bianchi, an experienced hand in the mortgage sector. In addition, Emilsa Santana has joined us to take on administrative duties for lending, as well as assisting in that role for other programs. Joining our Foundation Board was LaKisha Jordan of KeyBank and Richard Stern, Citizens Bank; and joining our Corporation Board were Sandra Williams of Liberty Bank, Elton Cocoli of Bank of America and Allison Standish Plimpton of KeyBank. Welcome all.

As this report is being prepared, all of us, including small business owners, are already facing significant challenges in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 virus, event cancellations, supply disruptions and the unpredictable impact on consumer behavior. Fortunately, we enter these challenges with a historically strong national economy, and while Connecticut requires our continued diligent efforts to improve opportunities and outcomes for all of its citizens, please remain confident that CEDF will be working even harder than before to help the state’s entrepreneurs and small business owners weather these storms.

We are pleased to share this report and welcome your questions and comments.