Who We Are

ACE’s talented, mission-driven management team is its most valuable asset. With experience including banking, economic development, social work, and consulting, the team integrates the wisdom of experience with the enthusiasm and technical savvy of next-generation entrepreneurs. Actively engaged on all fronts, the ACE team has never wavered in a commitment to provide assistance to the people in our communities and create jobs in Georgia. In a reflection of the communities we serve, our staff is ethnically diverse and live in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout North Georgia.

Our Staff

Grace Fricks

President and CEO, MBA

Fricks founded award-winning ACE | Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Inc., a Georgia nonprofit and certified CDFI that helps underserved business owners grow their businesses through capital, coaching and connections. In 2018, Bank of America and SunTrust Foundation honored ACE for outstanding impact – ACE has now provided more than $100 million in loans, assisted more than 1,400 small businesses, and helped create or retain over 12,000 jobs for Georgians. Fricks is one of Bizwomen’s 100 Women to Watch, a Women Who Mean Business Honoree by Atlanta Business Chronicle and one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine. In 2019 she was recognized as a Corporate Diversity Champion at the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards. She was also honored with a Vision of Excellence Award by the Atlanta Business League and named Financial Services Champion of the Year by the SBA Georgia District Office. She was presented with the Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award by Startup Atlanta.  While she is identified as one the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine, when asked what her greatest strength is, she 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. Fricks currently serves on the Board of Directors of Appalachian Community Capital and Invest Atlanta’s New Market Tax Credit Board. She is a past member of the National Board of Directors of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), the Fifth Third Advisory Board, and Board of Trustees of North Georgia Technical College. Fricks, a small business owner for more than 15 years, 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.

Contact Information:
678-335-5600 ext 101

Ray Pennie

Chief of Business Advisory Services

In addition to his role as Chief of Business Advisory Services, Pennie serves as the leader of ACE’s program services and entrepreneur educational activities. Prior to joining ACE, Pennie was Vice President of Business Development for Clearpoint, and was responsible for managing a national business development team that expanded Clearpoint’s mission of financial capability, education and counseling outreach to underserved economic groups. The agency had a special interest in serving low- to moderate- income populations, Hispanics, veterans, and older Americans. His team was instrumental in developing new and diverse revenue streams by forming strategic alliances with national corporations and non-profits to further expand the agency’s footprint and reach. Prior to joining Clearpoint, Pennie was Director of Sales at Dividend America Commercial Lending, where he led the business development team. Pennie has more than 28 years of experience in the banking sector working in commercial, residential lending and asset management. Pennie currently serves on the Board for Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta, Athens & North Georgia and previously served as Vice President for the PTSA of Chamblee Charter High School. He is a past member of the board of Quest 35 Advocacy, a program for ending veteran homelessness. Before beginning his career, Pennie proudly served for six years in the U.S. Navy as a Cryptologic Technical Operator. Pennie attended Capella University where he studied Business Management.

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Joshua Brackett

Chief Financial Officer

Brackett oversees the finance, accounting, and compliance departments for the $40 million non-profit.  Under his direction, ACE became nationally accredited and successfully secured debt capital from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, FHLBA and Hamilton State Bank after undergoing rigorous due diligence processes by each institution. Joshua is currently a Board member for Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO). He is a Babson College 10,000 Small Businesses Alumni and served on the Aeris Rating Advisory Board and the OFN “Performance Counts” CFO Working Group.  A graduate of Berry College with a BS in Business Administration and the Community Bankers Association consumer lending school, Brackett served in banking with experience as a loan collector/auditor, financial analyst, and Finance Manager with community banks.

Contact Information:

Martina Edwards

Chief of Strategic Partnerships

Martina Edwards was the first African American female stockbroker for Merrill Lynch at the New York Stock Exchange in its 200+ year history. An investor by trade, Edwards has dedicated her life to investing in not only assets, but also underserved people and places. Currently Edwards is Chief of Strategic Partnerships for Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) – the largest exclusively small business focused CDFI in the state of Georgia, providing capital, coaching, and connections to underserved entrepreneurs. For over two decades, ACE has provided over $120 million in loans to small businesses, supporting over 14,000 jobs across its 68 rural and metro county coverage area. With 20 years of Wall Street and nonprofit experience, Edwards delivers solid results in operations, strategy, and finance. In just under three years, she has helped ACE secure over $25 million in grant funds, including the largest individual and corporate grants in its history. Prior to joining ACE, Edwards was Vice President, Corporate Partnerships at Points of Light in Atlanta and Senior Director of Alternative Investments for Sponsors for Educational Opportunity in New York City. She also served as Interim Executive Director and Director of Finance for a Kaplan Higher Education college in Maryland, a Private Client Manager at US Trust and a New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Equity Trader for Merrill Lynch. Edwards is a Leadership Council member for Junior Achievement of Georgia and Advisory Board member for Zane Venture Fund – a first time fund focused on investing in early-stage companies with diverse founding teams in the Southeast. A recipient of the Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Chapter 2019 Pioneer Award, the 2018 Atlanta’s Women of Distinction Non-Profit Sector Award, a 2017 Fellow of New Leaders Council Atlanta, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Edwards is actively engaged in her community. Edwards earned a B.S. in Finance from Tuskegee University and an MBA from UNC, Kenan‐Flagler Business School, where she completed an exchange at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and global immersions in India and Mexico. She is also a mother of two energetic boys and keeps it all together with the support of her spouse.

Contact Information:

Sandra Font

Senior Director, Women’s Business Center- Metro Atlanta

Sandra Font oversees the overall management of the programs and day-to-day operations of the WBC which covers the metro Atlanta area. She helps women entrepreneurs reach their full potential by providing coaching, training, connections, and access to the resources they need to ensure businesses growth and success. She serves as the primary interface with SBA resource providers, governmental offices, business owners, non-profits, and funders. Since its inception in 2015, the WBC has served over 10,000 clients. Sandra also provides guidance and support to the Director of ACE’s WBC in Savannah. Sandra has 25 years of non-profit experience. In 2009, she joined Consumer Credit Counseling Services d/b/a Clearpoint Financial Solutions, where most recently was Director of Business Development for the Southeast Region. In that role she managed a team, oversaw more than 50 account relationships, and maintained local and national partnerships with corporations, foundations, nonprofits and government agencies. Sandra also held the positions of Community Relations Director and Operations Manager for Spanish Language Services. Prior to joining Clearpoint, Font worked for the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for 11 years. She held various positions, most notably as Interim President in 2008 and Vice President and Chief Operating Officer from 2000 to 2008, providing leadership to 1,200 Chamber members and building long-term relationships with top tier business executives and government leaders at the local, state and national levels. She has served in several boards and committees such as: Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Macy’s Atlanta Advisory Council, BB&T Fulton/DeKalb County, Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta, State Bar of Georgia, and GA Minority Supplier Development Council. In June 2008 she was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the “100 Most Influential people in Atlanta”. She is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta Class of 2008 and a Graduate of Regional Leadership Institute, Class of 2006. She was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, and earned a B.S. degree in Management.

Contact Information:

Eric Swilling

Director of Lending

Eric Swilling supervises the lending team and oversees loan production, ensuring that goals of capital deployment and programmatic impact are met. He uses his relationship building skills to lead business development for lending and cultivate key strategic partnerships. Swilling has a long history with ACE, working on the credit team previously, as well as serving as a trusted partner providing underwriting services through Swilling Underwriting Services, LLC. Prior to his work with ACE, he was the VP Commercial Lender at SCBT, where he developed and managed a $32 million loan portfolio consisting of commercial and consumer mortgages, equity lines and various installment loans. Eric is a graduate of Capella University’s School of Business, obtaining a BSBA in Finance. He later received his MBA in Accounting from Capella University.

Contact Information:

Shanon Stewart

Chief Credit Officer

Stewart is the Chief Credit Officer and is responsible for the overall risk of the portfolio. He has more than 25 years of banking experience serving in various roles as Assistant Vice President/Sr. Branch Manager at South State Bank, Vice President of Operations and Information Technology with Mountain Heritage Bank, and as a Commercial Loan Officer with Regions Bank. A Georgia native, Stewart attended both Gainesville College and American Intercontinental University. He is a graduate of Georgia Bankers Association (GBA) Georgia Banking School and GBA Southern Operations and Technology School. Mr. Stewart has served on the Rabun County Habitat for Humanity Board and served on other charitable organizations such as Fight Abuse in the Home (F.A.I.T.H.).

Contact Information:

Sandy Headley
Vice President

Jeff Moody
Grant Writer

Ruth Ann Whatley
Executive Assistant to the President
ACE Board Corporate Secretary

Kimberly Jackson
Grants Mgmt & Reporting Specialist

Alphonza Gibbs
Financial Analyst

Courtney Lynn
Credit Risk Portfolio Manager

Vonda Echols
Director of Community Development

Karen Malaga
Business Advisory Manager

Alejandra Diaz
Program Coordinator, WBC – Metro Atlanta

Lynn Sizemore
Loan Operations Manager

Robin Forrester
Loan Operations Specialist

Candi Fuller
Loan Operations Specialist

Juan Colon
Financial Advisor

Corina Adkinson
Financial Analyst

Bonita Doster
Small Business Loan Officer

Glenn Bachman
Financial Advisor

Brandy Simpkins
Program Coordinator, WBC – Savannah Region

Chris Clay
Commercial Loan Officer

Huong Vo
Senior Staff Accountant

Nancy Howard
Marketing & Communications Specialist

Misty McCrackin
Loan Operations Specialist

Alexandria Jones
Staff Accountant

Marietta D. Murton
Small Business Loan Officer

Vernell Stewart
Director, Women’s Business Center- Savannah Region

Ophelia Brown
Staff Accountant II
470-646-3128, Ext 138

Atisha Rainey
Accounts Payable Specialist

Guy Ramos
Collections Specialist

Andrea Gibbs
Credit Analyst