"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 16, 1963, in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail
So begins the address that DreamSpring President/CEO and Principal Founder Anne Haines made in August as the keynote speaker at the Economic Forum of Albuquerque, where she shared her origin story, which directly fueled the rise and growth of the organization. As a young child, Anne bore witness to the economic inequities and hardship in the New York City public housing system and went on to build DreamSpring to counteract those inequities.
Anne shared her journey from childhood (and an early introduction to the importance of cultural pluralism) to her first job in microfinance, which brought greater focus to her understanding of the power of economic inclusion. This set the course for a career that would span over two decades and establish a professional trajectory that would eventually impact tens of thousands of small business owners.
Early in life, Anne explained in a video of the event, "I lived in an environment where there was so much talent, so much hope, so many dreams that were dashed not because of the lack of education … but because there were systemic barriers and – more than anything else – a lack of economic opportunity that extinguished dreams and suppressed the opportunity for people to fulfill their potential. This is one reason why today I’m so passionate about helping people achieve their dreams and … realize the potential within themselves, their children, and their communities."
She went on to found DreamSpring in 1994 with a mission to foster economic inclusion by increasing access to affordable capital for even the smallest businesses. For more than 27 years, DreamSpring has been fostering diversity in entrepreneurship to advance historically underserved communities and elevate society as a whole.
“We as a nation and a democracy are stronger, more vital, and more powerful as a result of people’s diverse beliefs and backgrounds,” she said. “Nurturing inclusion is the way to thread the fabric of our community and our democracy,” and “entrepreneurs…are unbelievable catalysts for lasting economic and social change.”
Since its inception, DreamSpring has indeed delivered against that drive for change: it has made almost half a billion dollars in loans to entrepreneurs from almost 29,000 businesses across 19 states, helping sustain or create almost 70,000 jobs. Some 90 percent of these entrepreneurs represent an underserved population.
“DreamSpring operates at the intersection of capitalism and compassion. We believe as an organization that human potential is unleashed when all people, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, and gender identity, have the opportunity to shape their own future,” Anne said. “Nurturing entrepreneurship is a way to overcome some of the barriers to economic inequality – to create jobs and assets, products and services, a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and a sense of hope for the future.”
Despite the strides DreamSpring has made since its inception, Anne emphasized that the work is still young. The benefits presented by advancing economic inclusion are immense, she said, and we are facing a moment in history when the demand for equality is amplifying. Rising to meet that cry for change, DreamSpring has recently launched a five-year initiative to increase its annual impact ten-fold over the organization’s 2019 lending levels.
“What this means,” she said, “is that for entrepreneurs of color, for low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs, for women entrepreneurs, for people with disabilities, and for startup businesses, we are planning a thousand percent increase in impact.”