Texas Border Business
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Opportunity Finance Network awarded small business advocate Janie Barrera the 2022 Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Finance. Presented annually by OFN, a leading network of community development financial institutions, the Gramlich Award is the CDFI industry’s highest individual honor.
Barrera accepted the Gramlich Award in New York at OFN’s annual conference, where more than 2000 industry leaders, practitioners, and partners gathered for three days of learning and networking.
During her acceptance speech, Barrera walked the audience through milestones and lessons learned though her career and almost 30 years of leading one of the nation’s largest microlender. Founded in 1994, LiftFund is a nonprofit that provides capital to enterprises of all sizes across many industries. LiftFund has made almost a half billion dollars in loans and has a 96% repayment rate from its customers.
“I am grateful and honored to receive this award and recognition,” Barrera said. “I am reminded that our work is life-changing and life-giving. And we must continue to be of service to others.”
To celebrate the recognition and bring a little of her heritage to New York, Janie welcomed a band of mariachis on stage for a rendition of Selena’s Coma La Flor.
LiftFund launched in San Antonio, Texas, in 1994 with three employees. Today, LiftFund has more than a hundred employees and operates in 15 states, providing a variety of loan and business support services, such as marketing and management skills training, to help clients grow their business.
“Janie has spent three decades advocating for a more just and inclusive economy. More than that, she has helped to make it so,” said Donna Gambrell, president and CEO of Appalachian Community Capital and chair of OFN’s board of directors. “Janie has worked hard to level the financial playing field for entrepreneurs who have faced considerable obstacles to finance their dreams.”
LiftFund played an outsized role in supporting and uplifting small businesses during the pandemic, leveraging technology to meet unprecedented demand. In 2020 alone, LiftFund disbursed more than $43 million in loans, more than $54 million in grants, and delivered more than 7,000 hours of business support, serving small businesses at a rate never seen before in industry history.
“Janie is a pioneer in technology innovations that have helped expand small business and microenterprise financing, both at LiftFund and at CDFIs throughout the country,” said Beth Lipson, OFN’s chief financial officer and interim CEO. “Janie is a fearless – and extremely effective – financial justice change agent.”
Over her career, Barrera has received local and national recognition for her service and has served on many boards. She was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and was named to the board of directors for the Federal Reserve of Dallas’ San Antonio Branch. In 2015, Barrera was named to the San Antonio Business Hall of Fame. Most recently, Barrera was invited to join the inaugural Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity.
The award is named for Ned Gramlich, a staunch, longtime advocate for responsible finance. As former Board of Governors’ primary liaison to the Fed’s Consumer Advisory Council, Gramlich advised on community development and consumer finance policy matters. He was an outspoken voice against predatory lending and a strong defender of the Community Reinvestment Act. He served on OFN’s Board from October 2006 until his death in 2007.
Previous Gramlich awardees include Susan Tachau (2021); Inez Long (2020); Michael Swack (2019); Nancy O. Andrews (2018); Linda Davenport and John Berdes (2017); Elsie Meeks (2016); Moises Loiza (2015); Bill Bynum (2014); Ron Phillips (2013); Juliana Evades (2012); Jeremy Nowak (2011); Sister Corinne Floret (2010); Martin Eakes (2009); Cliff Rosenthal (2008); and Ned Gramlich (2007).