ACE held its annual awards and holiday luncheon on December 4th in Magnolia Hall of Piedmont Park to honor business owners and supporters who have excelled in entrepreneurial leadership and environmental sustainability.

The event was catered by ACE client, Happy Belly Food Truck, who demonstrated just how delicious success can taste. (Many guests went back for seconds and even third helpings.)

ACE wishes all of our clients, supporters, and friends a happy holiday season and a fulfilling and prosperous New Year! We have so much to celebrate as we take stock of our clients and their success.

Since starting in the home of founder Grace Fricks 14 years ago, ACE has made 588 business loans totaling $27 million and helped create or save more than 4,000 jobs in Georgia. Coming from a default rate of 20% when the recession hit, ACE now has a three year historical default rate of 3.8%. More than 15,000entrepreneurs have received business advisory services since inception. 2014 saw many milestones for ACE including being named as the Financial Services Champion of the Year by the Georgia office of the U.S. Small Business Administration; making the 1st Community Advantage Loan in Georgia; hosting the 1st WISE Speed Coaching Event; being awarded SBA funding to launch a Women’s Business Center; awarded 1st National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders grant; and awarded 1st Woodruff Foundation grant. Thank you all for supporting ACE and for improving the overall quality of life in Georgia.

U.S. Small Business Administration
Georgia District Office receives
J. Alton Wingate ‘Workhorse’ Award


Grace Fricks, ACE President and CEO, and Maria Peck, Director of ACE’s Women’s Business Center, present the award to Terri Denison, SBA’s Georgia District Director.

The J. Alton Wingate Economic Partnership Award, also known as the “Wingate Workhorse Award” goes to  U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Georgia District Office. It was presented to Terri Denison, SBA Georgia District Director. This award is named after the late Alton Wingate, who was a banking entrepreneur and founder of Financial Supermarkets, Inc., regarded as the “Father of Supermarket Banking.” Wingate was also the President and CEO of Community Bankshares, which invested the first private money in ACE’s vision for providing hope to the smallest of small-business ventures.

The Small Business Administration has been a long-time supporter of ACE’s work. The SBA has provided ACE with lending capital for more than a decade. For more than six years, SBA has provided much needed funding to support ACE’s business advisory services. In September, the SBA awarded ACE funding to launch a Women’s Business Center which will allow ACE to expand our business advisory and financial education services. During these many years of collaborating to aid small businesses in Georgia, the SBA Georgia District Office has provided vital support and technical assistance.

Terri Denison has been the Georgia District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration since May 2002. She is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the SBA’s financial, counseling/training and business development programs for small businesses throughout Georgia. We are very grateful to Terri and her team for being such valuable partners and supporters of ACE.

 Dorothy Yates Kirkley, ACE Board Chair, praised for service and commitment to ACE

Matt Bozzelli, ACE Board Member, and Grace Fricks, ACE President and CEO, present the award to Dorothy Yates Kirkley, ACE Board Chair.

ACE’s board chair, Dorothy Yates Kirkley, was presented with The Outstanding Commitment and Dedication Award. This honor is presented to an individual whose significant contributions have helped change the small business landscape in our community and recognizes that a person’s commitment and service can provide hope and opportunity to the people of Georgia.

Dorothy exemplifies commitment, service, and professionalism.

So much of ACE’s run of incredible success can be directly tied to Dorothy’s support, her wise counsel, her strong leadership and her endless drive. ACE has grown, both in size and maturity as an organization, during Dorothy’s tenure as Board Chair. Her work has been key to ACE’s development into a nationally recognized leader in small business and “green” financing.

This team is incredibly fortunate to have her service. Dorothy is a “director” and “leader” in every sense of these words.

Pueblos Mexican Cuisine is named commercial ‘Entrepreneur of the Year

Sandy Headley, ACE Vice President, and Jennifer Herring, BB&T, present the award to Sergio Moreira and Laura Estrada, owners of Pueblos Mexican Cuisine.

In 2004, ACE made its first loan to a Hispanic couple. The $25,000 meant they could own their restaurant themselves, rather than with other family members.

They have since expanded to 3 restaurants and 1 franchise in Georgia and a franchise in Uruguay.  No longer a micro-business, Sergio and Laura Moreira employ 125 people instead of four. They have had very little employee turnover. In the restaurant industry, that track record is practically unheard of. Pueblos routinely earns rave reviews and media accolades for their tasty recipes.

What’s their secret?

“Pay fair wages and treat employees with respect and dignity,” they say. Help them learn to speak English and file legal documents. Teach them about the American financial system.”

The husband-wife entrepreneurs are respected community leaders in the eyes of the non-Hispanic community, and they and serve as an informal employment network, providing both employers and potential employees with leads. Many Hispanic job-seekers have found vocations and a better way of life through the efforts of the Moreiras.

Atlanta Bookkeeping Solutions also honored as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’


Pamela Cross of Wells Fargo presents the award to Tennille Carter, owner of Atlanta Bookkeeping Solutions.


Tennille Carter grew up in New Orleans. With a knack for numbers and a take-charge, sociable personality, she dreamed of some day running her own business. When Hurricane Katrina devastated her hometown, she migrated with other refugees to Atlanta, found a job as an accountant at an envelope company, and decided to stay put.

 “I liked my job, but ever since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be my own boss,” she said. “Entrepreneurs just have that different mindset – we’d rather not punch a clock! So I started planning.”

 Her employer was supportive, allowing her to work part-time for about eight months to start building a base of clients. In 2007, she started Atlanta Bookkeeping Solutions, LLC, which handles primarily business entities along with some personal accounts.

 “I got to a point where my cash flow was okay, but I wanted to take my business to the next level with more advertising to lure bigger, more diverse clients,” she said.

 With capital and business counseling from ACE, Carter developed a marketing strategy, handled some operating expenses, and hired two staff members to help with data entry. She now has 4 staff and has moved out of her home office into a business office.

 “Regular banks just lend you the money without the advisory services, which are extra nice because they’re free and part of the deal!” she says. “I learned so much at one of ACE’s workshops called ‘Planning for Prosperity.’ Those services really help the business grow instead of just getting by and staying at a certain plateau.”

 Plus, she made some new friends and helpful contacts.

 “Another unique thing I like about ACE is the opportunity for networking,” she said. “Not only does ACE support clients, but clients also work together to develop relationships and help each other. All of this support makes a big difference in a business’s success.”

Aaron Family, owners of Woodstock Furniture Outlet, recognized for ‘Greenovation’

Sandy Headley, ACE Vice President, and Dorothy Yates Kirkley, ACE Board Chair, present the award to the Aaron Family.

Brian Aaron of Woodstock Furniture Outlet is very well aware of the triple bottom line with energy efficient projects at his business. In 2010, ACE financed light retrofitting projects for both of their warehouse locations in Acworth and Dallas, GA. For a total of $139,000, 258 fixtures in two furniture outlets were replaced with energy saving fixtures, saving the owner $75,000 per year. Not only have they surpassed their payback time frame, but the new lighting enhances the furniture so sales have increased significantly.

In 2011, ACE financed a new project for Woodstock- Permakote Elastomeric Ceramic Roof Waterproofing/Protectant Coating System. This is an energy saving reflective coating that offers superior mildew resistance, ceramic insulation and sound proofing, excellent adhesion, and UV ray reflectivity. Projected annual energy savings is 21,293 kWh.

Woodstock Furniture Outlet has a wide array of furniture, household décor, rugs, bedding, etc.