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 CDFI that helps under-resourced business owners grow their businesses through capital, coaching and connections. ACE has now provided more than $170 million in loans, assisted more than 2,400 small businesses, and impacted over 19,000 jobs for Georgians. In 2019 Fricks was recognized as a Corporate Diversity Champion at the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards. She was 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. 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 Boards of Appalachian Community Capital, Atlanta Emerging Markets Inc., Village Micro Fund, and the Veteran Loan Fund. She also serves on The Carter Center Board of Councilors. 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

Pennie is the Chief of Business Advisory Services (CBAS) for Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE). As a member of the management team, Pennie serves as the leader of business advisory services for all Georgia markets. This role oversees and supports the development and offerings of tailored, innovative, and comprehensive solutions for specific client business needs. He also spearheads business advisory initiatives that are supportive and consistent with ACE’s overall mission of providing loan capital to small businesses with a targeted strategy of serving women owned, minority owned and low to moderate income entrepreneurs. He leads and develops the implementation of the business advisory service programs by working closely with ACE’s leadership team, to identify lending products that are appropriate for ACE’s target markets. 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. 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. He has more than 28 years of experience in the banking sector working in commercial, residential lending and asset management. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta, Athens & North Georgia. Pennie also has been nominated to serve as the Southern Regional Council Chair for Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO). Before beginning his career, Pennie proudly served for six years in the U.S. Navy as a Cryptologic Technical Operator. He attended Capella University where he studied Business Management. Pennie also serves as the Southern Regional Council Chair for Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO).

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Martina Edwards

Chief of Strategic Partnerships

Edwards has more than 20 years of experience as a business professional and nonprofit leader, including work in fundraising, strategic partnerships and relationship management. She was the first African American female stockbroker for Merrill Lynch at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in its 200+ year history. Currently Edwards is Chief of Strategic Partnerships for ACE | Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs – the largest exclusively small business focused CDFI in the state of Georgia, providing capital, coaching, and connections to underserved entrepreneurs. With 20 years of Wall Street and nonprofit experience, Edwards delivers solid results in operations, strategy, and finance. In just five years, she has helped ACE secure over $50 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 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. She also serves on various organization boards and committees, including: Member of the GA Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) CDFI Task Force; GoATL Economic Inclusion Investment Committee; Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) Board of Directors; and Black Executive Leadership Team Community Advisory Council – Bank of America. An Atlanta Business Chronicle 2022 Women of Influence Honoree, 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. She 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.

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Shanon Stewart

Chief Operating Officer

Stewart is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) serving as the primary strategic and management partner to the President and Chief Executive Officer. In addition to overseeing and executing the operational functions of the organization, Stewart is also the lead on designing and implementing business operations, and establishing policies that promote Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs’ culture and vision. As the COO, he oversees the day-to-day responsibility of planning, implementing, managing, and controlling all loan and program services-related activities of the company. Stewart 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.).

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Jesús M. Pizarro

Chief Financial Officer

Jesús M. Pizarro Rodríguez is the Chief Financial Officer, overseeing financial operations and compliance. A Certified Public Accountant, he holds degrees from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, City University of New York-Baruch College, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, and an MSc in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia. Pizarro completed executive education in Inclusive Finance at Harvard Business School and the CFO Program at Columbia Business School. His leadership includes roles at Sunrise Movement, Heifer International, Puerto Rico’s Government, and ADM Puerto Rico. His book “Lessons Learned from an ERP” showcases his NGO-based international accounting insights. Committed to sustainability, he continues pro bono work with Sunrise Movement. Pizarro’s journey reflects his expertise in financial accounting, financial technology, and advocacy for sustainability.

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Adam Foley

Chief Credit Officer

As the Chief Credit Officer for ACE, Foley supervises the credit team and oversees risk management in the loan portfolio. He has 26 years of financial industry experience serving in various credit, lending, and regulatory roles, including Commercial Lender with The First Bank in McDonough, GA; and VP/Credit Services Manager and Division President with Persons Banking Company. He also has extensive analytical/risk management training and experience managing the underwriting function. Foley believes very strongly that locally owned small businesses are vital to healthy, thriving communities and looks forward to helping ACE fulfill its mission of promoting entrepreneurship in underserved communities. He is a graduate of Mercer University and the LSU Graduate School of Banking and a past officer of Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

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Chris Clay

Director of Lending

Clay is the Director of Lending at ACE | Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs. Prior to this role, he accumulated over a decade of professional banking experience including three years as a Senior Commercial Lender with ACE, and then Interim Director of Lending. His focus has primarily been on community banking, small business development, and non-profit business support, demonstrating proficiency in complex lending mechanisms such as NMTC. Clay champions small business financial growth, proactively identifying and seizing valuable opportunities to advocate for the development of inclusive and supportive financial ecosystems. Outside of his role with ACE, he has contributed to the metro Atlanta area by having served on advisory boards for a multistate Community Development Financial Institution and Affordable Housing Agencies. He has also demonstrated a commitment to community service through his previous involvement with the United Way Allocation Committee and Habitat for Humanity Family Selection Committee where he has been instrumental in guiding policies and initiatives that aim to reduce barriers to financial accessibility and promote sustainable community development. Academically, Clay holds a Degree in Criminal Justice from Georgia Military College, a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Georgia Gwinnett College, and an MBA from Georgia College & State University. Additionally, he is proudly affiliated with the Mu Psi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and Coach for the Archer Athlete Association.

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Tommie Beth Willis

South Georgia Regional Director

Willis manages the ACE office in Tifton which serves and supports small businesses throughout the South Georgia region with capital, coaching, and connections. Prior to joining ACE, she served as president of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce since 2016. With her leadership, ACE’s partnerships with other local CDFIs, and her many connections made throughout the years, she helps entrepreneurs across the region benefit from ACE’s services. In addition to her work in community development, Willis brings 30+ years of marketing experience and 20 years of business management experience. She has served on the United Way of Colquitt County Board of Directors, the SRTC Marketing Program Advisor Committee, the CrossRoads For Her Ministry Advisor Committee, and the GACCE (Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives) Board of Directors for Region 10. Willis currently serves as the Colquitt County representative on the Southwest Georgia Workforce Development Board and is an Alumni of South Georgia LEADS. She is also a member of the Moultrie Kiwanis Club, and a member of the Heritage Church in Moultrie.

Contact Information:

Alejandra Diaz
Program Coordinator, WBC – Metro Atlanta

Alexandria Jones
Staff Accountant

Alphonza Gibbs
Financial Advisor

Ana Maag
Financial Advisor – Tifton

Andrea Gibbs
Credit Analyst

Andréa Chambers
Asst. Director, Fund Development

April Berry
Commercial Loan Officer

Atisha Rainey
Accounts Payable Specialist

Bonita Doster
Small Business Loan Officer

Candi Fuller
Loan Operations Specialist

Carmen Puente
Marketing Intern

Chanel Randolph
Commercial Loan Officer

Corina Adkinson
Financial Analyst

Courtney Lynn
Credit Risk Portfolio Manager

Gabriela Lopez
Marketing Assistant

Glenn Bachman
Financial Advisor

Guy Ramos
Collections/ Recoveries Specialist

Huong Vo

Jasmine Aimes
Commercial Loan Officer

Jeff Moody
Grant Writer

Juan Colon
Financial Advisor

Karen Málaga
Business Advisory Manager

Kimberly Jackson
Grants Mgmt & Reporting Specialist

Lynn Sizemore
Loan Operations Manager

Marianne Ganem-Poppell
Program Coordinator, WBC – Savannah

Marietta D. Murton
Small Business Loan Officer

Misty McCrackin
Loan Operations Specialist

Nancy Howard
Marketing & Communications Specialist

Ophelia Brown
Staff Accountant II

Robin Forrester
Loan Operations Specialist

Rhonda Armstrong
Compliance Administrator

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

Sandy Headley
Vice President

Sandra Font
Director, Women’s Business Center – Metro Atlanta

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

Vonda Echols
Small Business Loan Officer