Anita Foster WashingtonBack to Blog

I grew up in a predominantly African American neighbourhood - Southeast, Washington, DC – one of the most economically isolated parts of the United States’ capital city. It is sometimes referred to as “East of the River.” When the global financial crisis of 2008 occurred, I was 17-years old and I had no idea how it would impact my family. For me, the 2008 crash was not just about wealthy investors losing their fortunes, it also left ordinary hard-working people, like my parents and their customers fighting for survival. The emergency aid and swift international response went to a lot of places, but it didn’t quite make it over the bridge - East of the River or to many communities like mine. That transformative experience sparked my passion and curiosity to study finance and access to capital.

At the time of the financial crisis I saw a visible shift in my parents.They were going through negotiations with the landlord of their auto body repair shop. My parents operated their business in the same location for 20 years, and my siblings and I spent every day there. They were proud business owners in our community. That year though, they were faced with the difficult decision of either hanging on to the physical premises that housed their shop or paying the mortgage on our home. Ultimately, my parents decided to let go of the business property and service customers at their locations, so we could pay the mortgage and keep our home. That was a pivotal point for me because I saw my parents’ world crash. They had worked so hard to build a black-owned business servicing the community we loved. So, I went to college with that frame of mind. I was determined to understand how Wall Street affected Main Street. During college, I began by learning sustainable economic development principles. I initially thought the only way to make change was through government and policy. But the more I unpacked my parents’ story, the more I realised that the inability to secure financing played a considerable role. This is what encouraged me to focus on impact investing.

Thirteen years after the financial crisis, black people still struggle to access capital. Black entrepreneurs, fund managers, and finance professionals are still not afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts. For entrepreneurs, it’s not just about scalability, but the inability to go from ideation to proof of concept. Many Black entrepreneurs are not given the opportunity to test out their ideas and navigate the market. One fundamental component of equity and inclusion is when black entrepreneurs have the capital to be creative and can innovate without the fear that failure to meet high stakes goals will ruin opportunities for everyone else coming behind them. In my current role, I work to build bridges that extend from economically underserved communities like my home, East of the River, to wealthy institutional investors committed to advancing equity and inclusion.