Digital transformation helps Opportunity Fund drive economic mobility

With help from Opportunity Fund, Olivia Colt followed her dream to open a catering company.

Olivia Colt’s life changed in December 2010. The 27-year-old was on her way to baggage claim at San Francisco International Airport when she suffered a stroke.

“At the top of the escalators, I knew where I was,” Olivia said. “When I got to the bottom I had no idea where I was. I had a pounding headache, tunnel vision, and was utterly confused.”

Another stroke during her hospital stay forced her to reconsider what she was doing with her life. She had been dabbling in catering—just small events and parties in her spare time—but facing an uncertain future forced her hand.

“I told my parents that if I could cook every day for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy girl,” she said.

Olivia overcame adversity and illness to start her catering business. When other banks turned her down, a $15,000 loan from Opportunity Fund allowed her continue her dream in spite of her health. Over the next six weeks, her parents nursed her through recovery and helped her launch what would become Salt & Honey Catering.

Award-winning and innovative, Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Opportunity Fund believes that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives, driving economic mobility and building stronger communities.

Microsoft is proud to support that mission. We’re excited to announce that in fiscal year 2018, our product donation helped Opportunity Fund provide more than $90 million in affordable, responsible financing to 3,000 underserved small businesses across California and 12 other states. This investment helped create and sustain 8,400 jobs, and is driving $175 million in new economic activity through new wages, spending, and tax revenue.

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Opportunity Fund used Microsoft BizTalk Server to integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM with its third-party loan processing application. BizTalk helps businesses automate processes with enterprise-wide application integration. The integration of BizTalk has had a significant impact on Opportunity Fund’s program efficiency: users no longer need to toggle back and forth between applications and make manual entries in multiple places.

Opportunity Fund also segregated development, test, and stage environments, utilizing Windows Server and SQL Server licenses, which improved the organization’s ability to develop solutions for the Small Business Loan team without interfering with ongoing operations. In addition, Opportunity Fund implemented SharePoint to store clients’ loan documents.

“These tools have resulted in improved efficiency and productivity, which is critical as Opportunity Fund focuses on scaling our small business loan program,” the organization said in a statement. “Your support has helped us expand our reach to strengthen small businesses in California and beyond, while investing in organizational capacity to support future growth.”

As a result, we’re proud to hear that Opportunity Fund’s loan volume grew from $65 million in fiscal year 2017 to more than $90 million in fiscal year 2018. This technology infrastructure will continue to be a key element in enabling Opportunity Fund to reach its bold goal to invest $400 million in underserved small businesses by fiscal year 2020. 

Entrepreneurship provides a pathway for low-income, minority, and immigrant workers to earn steady income to support their families while also benefiting their employees and local communities.

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