Each year, attendees at the OFN Conference are exposed to useful and thought-provoking content through the dozens of sessions offered. Here are some of the sessions to be found in the Small Business and Rural tracks.


Why Makers Matter: Strategies for Channeling the Maker Economy into Equitable Economic Growth         

“Maker” enterprises are emerging as a powerful force for economic growth. Using traditional handwork processes and advanced manufacturing, these craft businesses stimulate local manufacturing, generate jobs, reactivate industrial spaces, and revitalize main streets. This session shares the presenters’ experiences with rapid-share presentations on the opportunities and challenges of initiating a maker-focused program in a growing CDFI; what it takes to engage makers of color; national trends for cities fostering maker manufacturing; and strategies to include makers in a city’s economic revival.

Innovations in Lending: How CDFIs Are Deepening their Commitment to Latino & Immigrant Entrepreneurs        

Latino entrepreneurs face systemic barriers to accessing both capital and business support. Additionally, with CDFIs increasingly moving up-market to find borrowers, the industry runs the risk of leaving behind many of the communities it is intended to serve instead of adapting to meet their needs. In this session, we will interview innovators from three CDFIs serving in varied markets that are deeply committed to deploying capital and providing business support to meet the needs of Latino entrepreneurs in their communities.

Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab: Helping Small Business Owners Grow  

Hear from a panel of African American women entrepreneurs who are growing great businesses in Chicago. Through the Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab, these entrepreneurs have been paired with investors and advisors to work together intensely for ten months to grow their businesses. In this session, the business owners will discuss their journeys to this point, how they will invest this capital, and what has worked (and not worked) within the Lab.



From the Holler to the Desert: Creating Vibrant Investment Ecosystems in Rural Communities

From the "hills and hollers" of Appalachia to the deserts of the West, rural communities across the US are working together in new and creative ways to revitalize their regions. The unique challenges of rural community investment are spurring innovation in capital stacks, engagement of new partners, and policy change. Panelists will share lessons learned about the realities of collaborating at regional scale to improve life in rural communities.

Innovative Approaches to Deploy NMTCs in Rural Areas

Rural financing needs are sometimes unique: there are fewer CRA motivated banks, fewer lenders, and less philanthropy; projects are often smaller and riskier. This panel brings together leaders in rural economic development and business growth through New Markets Tax Credit investments. Participants will gain knowledge of several innovative rural financing models.

Rural Roundtable

In this facilitated, peer learning roundtable discussion, CDFIs and other rural stakeholders will talk about their successes and challenges serving rural communities, businesses and farmers. Who can CDFIs work with to achieve more impact in our rural work? Connect with and learn from other rural practitioners in an informal, conversational setting.

Full details for these and other tracks can be found in the OFN Conference Agenda. The 2018 OFN Conference takes place October 8-11 in Chicago. Register today.


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