A Goodbye Note from Rob Smith

I suspect most of you already know, but today marks my retirement from RMMFI due to my family’s tragic and unexpected loss. It’s been an incredible 14 years working through both the evolution of RMMFI and me as a person. We live by a North Star that puts people first and recognizes the reality of what it means to live through adversity and to find paths to uncover your potential. My potential right now is rooted in being an incredible dad and helping my son navigate the road ahead. The space RMMFI creates to activate people along this journey is impressive, and it is fantastic to witness this unwavering commitment to the North Star regardless of your role in RMMFI. As we continue to uncover our potential, I am proud to say RMMFI is at its strongest ever. Our focus and footprint are clear, our unwavering commitment to the right thing has been recognized, and our team has demonstrated leadership beyond comprehension. I’m excited to hand over the role to the amazing Jessica Sveen to help lead RMMFI into the next phase.

14 years is a lot to reflect on and celebrate the awesomeness of RMMFI. In 2008, we conceptualized and built RMMFI at my kitchen table. We knew some things but still had a lot to learn. We weren’t trusted yet, because we came from a failed organization, and it took us 18 months to build up enough financial support to feel comfortable about paying ourselves. It’s been amazing to watch how a strong vision and belief in people can carry an organization through good and challenging times. We thought we had the right solution but were reminded that people are behind everything. By doubling down on our focus on people, the path to economic opportunity becomes more apparent as we activate a person’s belief in self and recognize the greatness they hold inside. We’ve been relentlessly focusing on this ever since. At the end of the day, we are just guides. Our entrepreneurs show up every day to prove they are limitless and a force to be reckoned with.

Over my years, we’ve helped support over 300 entrepreneurs as they launch their businesses and retake control of the opportunity in front of them. We’ve lent out over $875,000 across 305 loans, with our entrepreneurs maintaining a 94% repayment rate. We were one of the first organizations in the country to integrate the Idea-to-Thrive education/mentorship concept with access to capital. While it seems natural (invest more in people, and you’ll see incredible outcomes), we saw a lot of hesitation at first. It’s impressive to see how that perspective has changed over recent years, and we are proud to say RMMFI has always led this way.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our journey. We are who we are because of the RMMFI Community. Our team has grown from 4 people around a kitchen table to 29 serving programs across 6 sites in Colorado. Each person means something really special to the org because of what they helped put in motion. I’ve always said our team is brilliant and talented, but we get supersized when combined with our community of supporters. Thank you to everyone circling around our entrepreneurs’ support (our Board, volunteers, partners, funders, and fans). You are core to the RMMFI Community and selflessly show up in support of our entrepreneurs. We get the privilege of a paycheck for our work, and yet you show up with equal passion and commitment in service to our entrepreneurs. A great reminder that nobody walks a path alone.

The biggest thank you goes out to the RMMFI Entrepreneurs (past, present, and future). You are inspirations and downright amazing people. While at RMMFI, I’ve had the privilege to witness the power of self-belief in action. Entrepreneurship is typically born out of adversity and recognizing the need for change. Our entrepreneurs amaze us daily. Whether facing confidence barriers because of being told by the world and those around them that they will never succeed, or trust barriers because of false promises unrealized, or racial/ethnic discrimination and marginalization, one foundation remains true — our entrepreneurs crush it when they believe in themselves and focus on activating the potential that’s been overshadowed inside. As a society, we don’t listen enough, don’t trust enough, don’t distribute power enough, and don’t believe enough in you as a community. I hope, together, we were able to (and continue to) build a system that shifts all of that and helps others see your potential as much as we do. You are amazing!!

What started as a desire to prove that microfinance works turned into a journey of exploration around our local community’s incredible potential. While there is potential everywhere, we still have one very big potential struggling to emerge — equity. Like any change we see for ourselves, we first need to be aware of the need to change before we are successful. The same holds true for our community as a whole. While some good progress has been made in recent years, we are only scratching the surface of what it means to be an equitable society. We all need to recognize the potential in our community vs. seeing it as a problem to fix.

Forever, we’ve had a mantra that we all felt was doing good — “Level the playing field.” If you really dig into this, though, you will uncover some roots in the unconscious bias and structural inequities existing in this world. There is a big assumption underlying the level playing field concept: people know where the path is to the field, know how to navigate it, and feel welcome when they arrive. Organizations like RMMFI realize it’s near impossible to succeed while being isolated to an alternative economy and while others hold a limiting perspective for you. We need to focus on clearing more paths and helping people feel more confident that they belong — this is all of our jobs.

While I am retiring and focusing my energy on raising my son as a single dad, I am not gone forever. I have built many solid relationships with those in the RMMFI Community, and I would love for that to continue. If you want to stay in contact, just shoot me a note to my RMMFI email ([email protected]), and you’ll get an auto-responder with my personal contact info. You can also reach out to Jessica at [email protected] or 720-314-9631 with any questions.

Thank you for 14 years of learning and growth. I am proud of RMMFI, our entrepreneurs, and our community. Together, we will continue to do incredible work.

Rob Smith