I want to share the story of Arrow with you. The line I always use is that Arrow’s financial model came out of our work at Cornerstone International. We saw a need for financial access in the “missing middle” because of our work with entrepreneurs around the globe. And that’s true. But the real story, the passion behind Arrow, runs deeper than that.
The reason that finance gap in the missing middle resonated so deeply has to do with human potential. One of my first passions is helping people – men, women, children, young, old, white, black, brown, and every group in between – fully embrace and utilize the abilities they inherently possess.
Seeing thousands of entrepreneurs unable to step into their full capacity simply because they can’t access basic financial services is infuriating. I made an internal pact with myself to try and do something that would help close the nearly two trillion-dollar finance gap that defines entrepreneurship for so many. A new journey was beginning.
Entrepreneurs like Norman and Mariantonia in Nicaragua, Fara in Guatemala, Andrei in Romania, Kojo in Ghana, and so many others are the reason why this matters. These men and women are emerging entrepreneurs who have built businesses, have employees, and have revenue, but their inability to gain access to appropriate business credit keeps them stuck on a dusty and overcrowded plateau. Microfinance can no longer support their capital needs, and commercial lenders are bound to collateral and credit history guidelines these entrepreneurs can’t yet meet.
I was convinced there had to be a unique intervention to support these entrepreneurs in a way that would bring them to the commercial market. I saturated myself with non-traditional capital access mechanisms. I reached out and had many conversations. I “borrowed” a lot of ideas from these conversations. I started scribbling on marker boards all over my office. How could this fit with that? How do we ensure human potential and leadership capacity are key focal points? What’s the exit strategy? How do we get stakeholders to unite and push the wheel in the same direction? These were all questions I was asking.
After months of analysis, a few rounds with my punching bag, and more than one set of dry erase markers, a combination of ideas developed by giants before us came together in one place to become the Arrow model. Local accelerators would ensure business training that focused on effective leadership. Philanthropic investors (young and old, mid-career or post-career) could leverage their financial standing to uplift emerging entrepreneurs. Local banks would track repayments to build a credit history & provide local legal jurisdiction to insulate risk. The stakeholders were coming into view.
This could work. This would work – for investors, for entrepreneurs, for communities. The model’s potential for impact was real. The missing middle would have a new mechanism to access credit so small businesses could thrive. Small business, after all, is the growth engine of any strong economy — look at our own here in the United States.
Arrow is still in its infancy, and the best is yet to come. We have an amazing team, incredible global partners, and a passion for sustainable impact. Thank you for being part of what we’re doing.
A work in progress,
Chad Jordan, co-founder & CEO