Grace Fricks was honored as a Corporate Diversity Champion at the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards held Thursday, November 14th, at King Plow Arts Center. Surrounded by her management team and board members, she humbly accepted the award on behalf of her lifelong work.
Nicknamed “Amazing Grace,” she has been making an impact in her local community and the Atlanta area since her career began as a social worker in 1978, and then by founding Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs Inc. (ACE) in 1997. As president and CEO of ACE, Grace runs the nonprofit organization on the belief that everyone who has a dream and the drive and desire to make it happen deserves the opportunity to succeed.
ACE’s CFO, Joshua Brackett, said, “We’re excited for Grace to receive this recognition because she enhances equality in the business community twofold: ACE has its own diversity in the workplace (employees and board members) and ACE is 100 percent focused on enhancing the lives of its diverse clientele.”
When asked what her greatest strength is, Grace will tell you that it is her ability to empower others to fulfill their dreams. That’s what she’s good at, and that is what excites her. She empowers her staff, she cheers on ACE’s clients, and she inspires the many partners who believe and invest in the mission of ACE. Grace’s vision for ACE is to create a ripple effect that not only has a positive impact on the individuals ACE serves directly, but also on their families, their employees and their communities. When ACE provides a loan that supports a business and creates or sustains jobs, Georgia’s economy is strengthened.
ACE specializes in growing small businesses with Capital, Coaching, and Connections! We give people a chance when others can’t. We serve small businesses in Georgia, with a focus on women, people of color, low-to moderate-income business owners, larger businesses and community facilities that create jobs. Headquartered in Cleveland, Georgia, ACE has an office in Atlanta (in the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and a Women’s Business Center in Norcross.
Since 2000, ACE has loaned more than $70 million to over 950 entrepreneurs, who have created or saved more than 8,200 jobs in Georgia. ACE’s five-year plan, for years 2018 through 2022, is to provide another $77 million to Georgia’s small-business community. In the first year of this plan, loan deployment and funding goals are on target, and projections are extremely bright for helping local businesses for years to come.
Joshua Brackett has worked with Grace since February 2012. “We have managed ACE’s growth from a $7 million to a $39 million nonprofit, a 457 percent growth, while concurrently achieving national accreditation. I have witnessed Grace’s intentional moves toward hiring and making board appointments to ensure that her staff and board are as diverse as the clients ACE serves.”
Besides tirelessly working on ACE’s behalf, Grace is also generous with her time in the community. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) and the Board of Directors of Appalachian Community Capital and is a past member of the National Board of Directors of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO). A small business owner for more than 15 years, Grace is also a former Board Member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Atlanta chapter. Her undergraduate is in social work from University of Tennessee at Martin and her MBA is from the University of Memphis.