OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2008, when other lenders scrambled to take their cards off the table, ACE lived up to its bold acronym by upping the ante.

“Most businesses were hunkering down, waiting for the recession to blow over,” says Grace Fricks, who founded the community development finance institution in 1999 to help technical college graduates with microloans. “We made a conscious decision to be part of the recovery, to ramp up lending and put as much capital as possible into the hands of small business owners, and the results have been extraordinary.”

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