Feb. 24 SVMN Meeting: Weathering the Storm on Our Local Level

Greetings, SVMN members!

We’re going to start our 2009 programming with a closer look at our microfinance community — zooming in to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Yes, microfinance is happening domestically and right here in California.  Our first event of the year highlights the work of local organizations, and the ‘Microfinance, CA’ conference in May will be a rich forum to explore microfinance all over California.  Throughout the rest of the year, SVMN will continue to bring you experts who will speak on current issues in microfinance throughout the world.  See you soon!



Weathering the Storm on Our Local Level

The effects of the economic crisis on microfinance in the Bay Area

The next Silicon Valley Microfinance Network (SVMN) meeting will be Tuesday, February 24, 2009 and will feature Evelyn Huang of Opportunity Fund (formerly Lenders for Community Development), Ben Mangan of EARN, and Julie Abrams of Women’s Initiative for Self Employment.

Evelyn Huang                                   Ben Mangan                                  Julie Castro Abrams

evelyn_huang headshot ben_mangan_headshot julie-castro-abrams-headshot

How is the global economic crisis effecting our local microfinance market?  According to a survey by the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the financial downturn is having varying effects on microfinance around the world.  How are Bay Area microfinance providers innovating to survive this period and to continue helping their clients build capacity and face the current challenges?  This SVMN panel will explore how our local microfinance community is experiencing and responding to the economic environment at both institutional and client levels.

We will hear from three leaders practicing microfinance in the Bay Area.  Julie Castro Abrams runs Women’s Initiative for Self Employment, a business-training organization that helps turn training into action by offering its alumni microloans to seed or grow their own businesses.  Ben Mangan founded EARN (Earned Assets Resource Network) to help low-income individuals break the cycle of working without saving, and to inform and enable them to build assets for their professional, personal, and family growth.  Evelyn Huang leads the Small Business Loan Program at Opportunity Fund, an organization which also provides matched savings accounts, finances affordable housing in Silicon Valley, and lends to real estate projects bringing investment into low-income communities.

To register, please click on the SVMN registration link here:


When: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

6:00-6:30pm: Registration, Dinner, & Networking
6:30-8:00pm: Speakers & Discussion
8:00-8:30pm: Networking

Where: Franklin Templeton headquarters in San Mateo

1 Franklin Parkway, Building 970
San Mateo, CA 94403
(directions here)


in advance: $20 regular attendee | $10 students & non-profits (w/ ID)
at the door: $30 regular attendee | $20 students & non-profits (w/ ID)
(includes dinner + drinks)

Speaker Bios:

Evelyn Huang, Small Business Loan Program Director of Opportunity Fund

Evelyn Huang is the Small Business Loan Program Director at Opportunity Fund, one of the largest microlenders in California. As Program Director, Evelyn oversees the program’s $3.4 million revolving loan fund and is responsible for all aspects of the microlending process, including marketing and outreach, strategic partnerships, underwriting, portfolio management, and technical assistance.  In her tenure, she has increased client service capacity by 280% and achieved 200% growth in loans closed for the program.  Evelyn has deep knowledge of the challenges facing small business owners in California and has personally worked with hundreds of borrowers.  She is well-versed in the growth potential and challenges of the domestic microfinance field and is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Scale Academy for Microenterprise.

Prior to joining Opportunity Fund, Evelyn was an Associate at Summit Partners, a growth private equity and venture capital firm.  She graduated with Honors from Stanford University with a Bachelors degree in Public Policy.  She has worked in technology startups, youth organizations in South Central L.A., and is an active Board Member of the California Junior Miss Scholarship Program.

Since its founding in 1995, Opportunity Fund has originated $9.8 million in loans to small businesses and has invested more than $130 million into needy communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Opportunity Fund’s leadership team has received the Skoll Award for Innovation in Silicon Valley, the Wachovia Impact award, the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, and the SBA Financial Services Advocate of the Year. In addition to the Small Business Loan Program, Opportunity Fund operates one of the largest matched-savings account programs in the country and is a leader in providing innovative financing to community real estate projects in the Bay Area. 

Ben Mangan, Founder and CEO of EARN

Ben Mangan is the President, CEO and Co-Founder of EARN. Since 2002, EARN’s 2000+ Savers have put aside over $2.2 million of their own money, and successfully invested millions in college degrees, small business start-ups, and first homes. Ben also founded and leads EARN’s California-wide asset policy initiative, the Asset Policy Initiative of California (APIC), which drives leadership, public will, and policy change for low wage workers in California.

EARN was the 2005 winner of the Fast Company Magazine/Monitor Group Social Capitalist of the Year Award, and was named one of the ten finalists in the 2005 Amazon.com Non Profit Innovation Award.

Ben has more than 15 years of experience in public policy and management, in the areas of education, affordable housing, business development and strategy. Ben was the Midwest Practice Leader for Ernst & Young’s Public Private Development Group in Chicago. Immediately prior to joining EARN, Ben served as the Director of Organizational Strategy for an international internet firm.

He is from Brooklyn, NY, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Vassar College as well as a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

In 2005, Ben was appointed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Private Industry Council. He also serves on the Board of the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA).

Julie Castro Abrams, CEO of Women’s Initiative for Self Employment

Julie Castro Abrams is a national leader in microfinance and women’s issues.  Named as a “Woman Most Likely to Become President” by the League of Women Voters and as one of the Bay Area’s most influential women leaders, she has distinguished herself as a significant leader in the country.  She has been CEO of Women’s Initiative for Self Employment since 2002, following a non-profit career that spanned 20 years in Chicago.  She led the transition of Women’s Initiative from a founder-led organization to a rapidly growing nonprofit that has expanded throughout the Bay Area and increased the number of women trained and receiving microloans tenfold.  Under her leadership, significant new services have been developed that contribute to the success of entrepreneurs and the economic growth in the communities served by the organization.  The social return on investment analysis done by the organization estimates $480 million in economic impact through her tenure.  Women’s Initiative has been recognized by the Urban Institute Best Practices Foundation, the Equal Rights Advocates and Cisco Innovation in Technology, among others.

Julie currently serves on the Board of the California Association for Microenterprise Opportunity (CAMEO), she is on the advisory board for OneCal Bank, and is a highly sought after speaker and expert on microenterprise in the U.S.  Julie’s recent awards include the SBA Business Advocate of the year 2009, Oakland’s Women of Greatness Award 2009, Human Rights Award from the Commission on the Status of Women and the Women of Color Action Network Award 2008.

Julie’s graduate studies were in Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, and she has a BA in Human Development and Social Policy from the School of Education at Northwestern University.