Podcast Interview

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Business Fights Poverty member, Chad Jordan, reflects on his first year as CEO of Arrow Global Capital, which seeks to provide credit access to small business entrepreneurs in emerging markets in order to increase local capacity in a sustainable manner – employment creation, borrowing capacity, leadership growth, food/healthcare security, & education access.

It all started on a marker board. My small office was cluttered with the chaos of running a small international consulting firm. On one wall, though, I managed to find some empty white space to dream.

Our team had started asking big questions a few months prior. We started thinking about, learning from, spending time around emerging entrepreneurs who found themselves in that so-called “missing middle” finance gap. We’d interacted with many men and women in this space before through our consulting work, but a more complete picture was coming into view.

The conversations led to bigger questions, the questions led to sketches, and the sketches on that marker board led to a model that would – in theory – serve as a finance bridge for vetted entrepreneurs stuck in the missing middle.

A university partnership that resulted in one massive research process pushed the new model forward. A few key partners and a naming brainstorm session later, Arrow Global Capital came into the world at the end of January 2014.

The last year has been full of extremely high highs and some pretty tough lows. Our team has worked tirelessly, our attorneys have drafted and revised hundreds of documents, we’ve negotiated with vital stakeholders, we’ve convinced ourselves and our early champions that this will serve an unmet need.

Our team is incredible, but I have a secret: I’m in above my head. I’ve found my uncomfort zone.

When I started dreaming on my marker board all those months back, I didn’t plan on starting a new organization; in fact, that wasn’t even on my radar. I wanted to do a little research, to understand the proverbial “space” a little better. But the more I learned, the deeper I got.

I realized we could unite many of the people already working in the missing middle gap under a single vision: to close the cycle and improve access to finance solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses in emerging markets. Our shared focus on local capacity would align us.

A nonprofit structure would give us the best chance at success, given our unique capital mobilization process. I never expected to be the CEO of a nonprofit organization, especially because of my previous work with nonprofit organizations! But we’re working to become a self-sustaining nonprofit, one defined by low overhead and high ROI. My business conscience can sleep at night.

Now back to that part about being in above my head. I’ve learned to embrace it. I’m comfortably uncomfortable. The days are long, the negotiations intense, the paperwork tedious. But then I get to visit one of the entrepreneurs we’re hoping to serve and the world seems right. The stress fades away, the tension in my neck and shoulders subsides. I make peace with the fact that some days just suck. I get to – if only fleetingly – remember why this matters. My energy is renewed.

I don’t know what the future holds for Arrow, but I do know that I’m humbled to be part of an organization that is working to serve as a bridge for innovative, hard-working entrepreneurs around the globe, pushing them toward full commercial access in their local context.

My first year as CEO of an emerging market finance platform has been nothing if not a twisting, turning, roller coaster of an adventure. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Bring it on, year two.

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