Every morning when Angella Aizire wakes up, she thinks “Who am I going to support? Who am I going to meet today?” That focus on community and service are what led to Angella’s being named Baltimore Community Lender’s top lender for fiscal year 2022. But to her, it’s all about the entire BCL team and the people they’re lucky enough to work within the community.
“Honestly, for me, it’s the businesses that we’re supporting and the impact that we’re having on the street. [I see] joy when people have been to so many places and they have been turned down. But then they come to us and we’ve given them not just the financial support, but also the business coaching, because everybody that goes through our program stays with us.”
Angella recognizes that there is strength in relationships. Like the rest of her team at BCL, she looks beyond someone’s credit score when considering if their small business would be a good candidate for a loan. Many of the small businesses she works with have been in business successfully for years. But they may not have a business plan and they may not have the collateral or financial literacy that traditional banks require before even starting the conversation. Angella knows that experience and hard work can matter more . She leads applicants through the business coaching process to help them demonstrate their business has potential, providing an education in financial literacy that is often inaccessible to many in underserved communities.
Before joining the small business division of BCL in August 2019, Angella spent a decade working in community development in rural Africa. She helped farmers receive funding from banks so they could grow their businesses. She showed the farmers how to demonstrate that they had been successful and that they could continue to be with the help of additional funding. She educated the farmers on bookkeeping and other business skills that may have fallen to the wayside as they did what they do best — managed crops and livestock to support their communities and make a living.
“It was a natural fit for me to work in and understand our community, because that’s what my background is in and that’s my passion,” explains Angella. And her clients couldn’t agree more. Starting in 2020, she worked with Sekwan Merritt of Lightning Electric. The story he shares gives a glimpse into what a privilege it is to work with Angella:
“From the moment we connected, her warmth and genuine commitment to helping entrepreneurs like me were evident. Angella served as my guiding light throughout this demanding process, and her unwavering support made a world of difference. She understood the complexities and anxieties I faced as a small business owner. She encouraged me to be patient and diligent, assuring me that we would overcome the hurdles together.
“Angella’s expertise and knowledge of the lending landscape were exceptional. She patiently assisted me in preparing and submitting numerous documents, always emphasizing the importance of staying focused and persistent. Her encouragement gave me the strength to persevere, even when obstacles seemed insurmountable. The result of Angella’s dedication and my relentless efforts was truly remarkable. I was granted the loan, which marked a pivotal moment for my company. Baltimore Community Lending became the first institutional organization to extend a helping hand to Lightning Electric, playing a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of our business.”
Angella’s dedication to helping others through coaching and guidance makes her a valuable member of not only BCL, but the entire community it serves. With every connection she makes, she embodies the spirit of helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams, no matter what their background.