Caption: Shelly Gross-Wade (left) and Dawn Medley (right).
As FSC First transitions to new leadership, we asked our outgoing President and CEO, Shelly Gross-Wade, and our incoming President and CEO, Dawn Medley, a few questions reflecting on their journeys with the company and the pathway ahead.
1.What does this transition mean to you both?
Shelly: I have been blessed to transform a small, local, nonprofit economic development finance organization into a nationally recognized, best-practice organization. I have served with some phenomenal individuals – both on our Board of Directors and on our team of economic development professionals. I was promoted into economic development more than 37 years ago, and I have maintained a passion for ensuring that small and minority businesses have access to capital and opportunities to thrive. God has truly made this my ministry, and I’ve enjoyed every single challenge and opportunity to make a difference in the life cycle of a fledging business.
Dawn: Transition for me is maintaining the mission’s continuity while introducing new and innovative ideas to deliver our programs and services. Over the past decade, I have seen FSC First grow from four programs to thirteen, with two more on deck. FSC First has grown from five or six employees to twice that many. And our available lending capacity has grown exponentially to over $38 Million. So, this transition will be the launching pad to fuel the expansion of our capital delivery engine.
2. Advocacy for small, women, minority, and socially disadvantaged businesses is your mutual passion. Can you share a client success story that conveys the scope of your support?
Shelly: QC Jones started in the economic development technology incubator, received a $100,000 start-up loan, became 8(a) certified, obtained public and private sector contracts, and grew and sold the technology company. He then founded a second tech company, now serves as a Board Member for FSC First, and coaches small businesses in the Bowie Business Innovation Center (Bowie BIC), a strategic partner in our recently launched Level Up Program.
Dawn: Nita Armstrong received financing through our SBA 504 Commercial Real Estate Loan to launch The Goddard School Early Childhood Development in Bowie, MD. Before the Goddard School, Nita had a successful 20-year career in the residential lending industry and a decade with Fannie Mae. Nita was invited to our Loan Review Committee (LRC) after graduating from three FSC First loan programs. As a successful business owner and past borrower of FSC First, she was the perfect addition to the LRC. She would bring the business owner’s perspective and the credit policy experience when evaluating opportunities to assist businesses with much-needed financing.
3. Over the last 24 years, the FSC First team has closed over $100 million in loans to small, women, minority, and socially disadvantaged businesses. What do the next mile markers look like?
Shelly: In my opinion, the next mile markers will be to increase the number of businesses assisted and reduce the amount of time it takes to deploy the dollars. FSC First has many resources and access to a network of partners eager to assist committed business owners who want to take their businesses to the next level of success. We value that many business owners are passionate about what they do but could use help working more innovatively to create generational wealth for their families.
Dawn: As Shelly said, a top priority is the expedited deployment of funds. We plan to create an even more robust online loan application process with real-time pre-approval and rapid approval features that result in closing a loan in less than 30 days for working capital, inventory, and equipment.
4. Laughter brings perspective, in work and in life. Can you share a fun workplace memory that deepened your relationship and still makes you giggle?
Shelly: I unconventionally interviewed Dawn. I would not let her leave until she said “yes.” I told her then, and she has now realized, that there will never be a dull moment at our organization. She will go home tired but fulfilled. She will wake up the next day wondering how she survived yesterday and how fast she can run today! I have cracked the proverbial glass ceiling and have made a pathway for her to go through it.
Dawn: I have to agree with Shelly. Our relationship has been as extraordinary and adventurous as my interview. Every day since then has provided opportunities for synergetic collaboration between us — and the amazing and talented team members we have had the pleasure to work with over the years. As a result, we have experienced many days when we don’t know how we got it done, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. When you have synergy with someone, your combined effect, or co-action, is greater than the sum of the individual or separate actions. There have been times when the team had intensive loan and project deadlines, and we were all in the office really, really late “gettin’ er’ done,” as Shelly says. Shelly could have left for the day; she knew we had it handled. But she didn’t – she ordered pizza for everyone! – and stayed as long as everyone did. That’s the synergy that promotes great culture and great teams.