Alexis Dishman has been named the Chief Lending Officer for the Michigan Women Forward (MWF) non-profit organization. With the help of Dishman, MWF looks to become a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) providing grants and loan products for businesses led by women and minorities. With an extensive background in finance in a predominately male-dominated industry, Dishman has used her financial background to help women and minority-owned businesses receive capital for their companies.
“MWF is really focused on creating economic self-sufficiency for women and one of the major ways that the organization has done that is by providing funding,” Dishman explains. “As the board made the decision, there needed to be some leadership around leading the organization into the CDFI and making sure that the positioning as a CDFI was exactly how we anticipated.”
Previously she was with Comerica Bank as Vice President and an alternate group manager. Dishman has also served as the chair of Comerica’s Michigan African American Business Development initiative.
“You don’t always see women of color in these types of positions,” Dishman says.
Before taking the position with MWF, where she also served on the Board of Directors, Dishman worked as the Managing Director of Lending for Michigan and Ohio with the Illinois Facilities Fund, or IFF, in its Detroit location.
“Transitioning to IFF, I really wanted to be part of the revitalization and economic development of our city and our state,” Dishman explains. “As a Community Development Financial Institution, it gave me the opportunity to do that; to be a part of the revitalization. And that’s primarily because CDFI’s have an opportunity to look at risks differently. So, they have the opportunity to be more flexible with their capital.”
Continuing its tradition of assisting female-led businesses, MWF launched a million-dollar campaign providing funds for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In conjunction with Consumers Energy Foundation, General Motors, Fifth Third Bank, Comerica, DTE, Huntington Bank and The New Economy Initiative, the Resilience Fund featured $500,000 dollars from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and another $500,000 dollars from the Michigan Women Forward non-profit to assist in business operations.
“I have a responsibility to help not only those that are in business, but to those that are trying to grow and move their businesses forward,” Dishman shares. “I think for African American women, historically, we’ve been providers for our families in a lot of different situations and the opportunity to help African American women not only provide but to create economic opportunity and legacy for their family is an awesome responsibility and an awesome opportunity.”
Being named a 40 Under 40 by Crain’s Communication in 2013, Dishman is also the recipient of the Detroit Free Press and Metropolitan Coalition Affairs Shining Light Award. Although not seeking acknowledgment, receiving accolades for her work is a proud moment in her career.
“It was a surprise to me because when your put your head down and you are just trying to figure out how to work and make it better for others you don’t really think about any kind of recognition,” Dishman says. “Let me just say it was extremely humbling to me to receive that level of recognition.”
Citing her grandmother for her entrepreneurial spirit, Dishman notes how much of an influence she had been on her career and her desire to do more in the community.
“My grandmother owned two hair salons. She was able to acquire real estate in a time when that just wasn’t something Black women were able to do. The one thing I will always stand on is that my grandmother always believed in herself and she believed in her value and she believed she would be able to add value to the economy,” Dishman says.
Together with Dishman, the Michigan Women Forward organization will submit their application within the next month to become officially certified as a Community Development Financial Institution.
“I am looking forward to leading MWF through the CDFI certification process and expanding the loan fund as a CDFI,” said Dishman. “The certification will provide MWF with additional opportunities to obtain capital that will enable the organization to provide even more loan capital and technical assistance to women and minority entrepreneurs that are currently underserved.”
The certification process is expected to take up to 90 days for completion. For more information on Michigan Women Forward, visit their website at www.miwf.org.