Helping Entrepreneurs Write Their Own Success Stories

A longitudinal study on the impact of mission-based lending services on small business in the United States

Full Report

The study’s findings reinforce the urgency to bring mission-based lending to scale, thereby providing this critical service to all entrepreneurs who stand to benefit.



As mission-based lenders, Accion and Opportunity Fund work with entrepreneurs who are locked out of traditional financial systems to increase their access to capital, networks, and education that will help them reach their business goals. Though many studies have measured the outcomes of mission-based lending, Harder+Company’s longitudinal study of Accion and Opportunity Fund clients is the first of its kind because it measures impacts on entrepreneurs’ experiences as business owners.

This research was made possible through lead funding from:
Additional support from
Research was completed over the course of 3 years by

With help from mission-based lending services, entrepreneurs are thriving

Entrepreneurs are increasingly financially stable

Over 50% of borrowers say their experience with the lender increased their feelings of financial stability
“Ever since we got that loan … we started to have cash flow. So, we grew economically and personally and the business settled down more.”

Entrepreneurs are experiencing long-term success in business

94% of businesses are still open 2-3 years post-loan. Most businesses increased sales (60%) and increased profit (57%)
“As a result of the loan, I was able to buy more inventory, which in turn gave me more revenue from different revenue streams, which then meant my cash flow was healthier, which then allowed me to bring on employees. It’s a trickling effect.”

Entrepreneurs are creating good jobs in their communities

40% of borrowers added jobs during the study period
“Once we got in the new staff, that opened up the whole possibility to us of adding more services into the facility.”

Accion or Opportunity Fund had a lasting impact on entrepreneurs

“The biggest thing has been the confidence that I’ve gained in myself…I’m really proud of it.”

About the Participants

Harder+Company surveyed over 500 borrowers, 188 of whom were also interviewed, in 2016. Follow-ups were conducted in 2017 for 350 surveys and 100 interviews.

Entrepreneurs still face challenges

Choosing entrepreneurship is brave, and it’s not always easy. The challenges Harder+Company illuminated with this study light a path forward for Accion and Opportunity Fund to focus on serving clients in specialized ways that focus on these specific areas.

  • Financial emergency prep
  • Volatile cash flow
  • Making + sticking to a business plan
“I have seasons where I can earn two, three times what I would make in a weekly paycheck. And then there are weeks when I don’t make much.”

Entrepreneurs are diverse in their goals, strategies, and outcomes

Harder+Company let the data lead when it came to analysis. With no significant patterns found in geography or demographics, Harder used cluster analysis to assemble Accion and Opportunity Fund clients into five distinct groups based on their businesses’ starting points, goals, and outcomes.

Focused and growing

44% of participants

  • Started strong and staying strong
  • Growth-oriented
  • Business is the sole source of income
  • Building financial stability
  • Job creators

Stable and strategic

12% of participants

  • Value stability and personal fulfillment
  • Strategic planners
  • Balance multiple income sources
  • Not necessarily trying to get down to one job

Off balance and seasonal

9% of participants

  • Experiencing challenges –unexpected hardships and seasonal cash flow
  • Confidence is dwindling; perceived benefits of the loan are short-lived
  • Lack sense of financial control
  • Highly attuned to day-to-day cash flow instead of a long-term plan
  • Committed to moving forward and looking for support


19% of participants

  • Committed to business growth
  • Foregoing a salary and investing personal finances in the business’s growth
  • The blurred line between personal and business finances
  • Make sure employees are paid first

Slowly growing and optimistic

17% of participants

  • Building on unstable ground; limited cash buffer
  • Serving “niche” markets
  • Managing inconsistent cash flow
  • Uncomfortable with debt, even small amounts
  • Great at financial tracking, challenges with long-term planning

What's Next?

Turning Insights into Action

Equipped with a deeper understanding of client’s successes and challenges, Accion and Opportunity Fund are in a position to help their entrepreneurs write their own success stories. Harder+Company’s research revealed that entrepreneurs are thriving in the face of obstacles, and they attribute many measures of their progress to their experiences with mission-based lenders.


Armed with new impact data and findings that support efforts to meet entrepreneurs’ unique needs, Accion and Opportunity Fund will continue to serve small business owners, adapting products and services to better fit clients’ current experiences.

Harder + Company’s research revealed that entrepreneurs are thriving.

  • Diversify our financial product offerings
  • Make advising services relevant and easy-to-use
  • Evaluate, test, and refine our approaches