Mountain BizWorks, the Asheville nonprofit that offers small loans to entrepreneurs and small businesses, has hired Shaw Canale to serve as its new chief executive officer. Canale has a decade of experience leading a similar organization that served entrepreneurs in Washington and Oregon.
Canale, who lives in Seattle, served as executive director/chief executive officer of the Cascadia Revolving Fund from 1997 to 2007. She oversaw that organization’s merger with ShoreBank Enterprise Pacific before moving on to start her own consulting business advising organizations known as community development financial institutions. Canale started her career in commercial banking in the Seattle area.
Canale replaces Greg Walker-Wilson, who worked as Mountain BizWorks chief executive officer for the last 10 years. He stepped down from his job to move his family to South America to take a three-year volunteer assignment with the Mennonite Central Committee in Colombia. He announced the decision in January and left the job June 1.
Canale’s first day on the job is Aug. 3. In a telephone interview, Canale told Xpress she’ll miss her Seattle garden but is looking forward to working with Mountain BizWorks.
Mountain Xpress: How did you get started with Cascadia?
Shaw Canale: I first worked in commercial banking and for a time,I managed a branch in a low income community, a very diverse community, in south Seattle. It was just the best job I ever had. But it became clear that the bank was cutting back in preparation for a merger, and I knew I wouldn’t make that change.
Why was that the best job?
When I was working at the bank, it had received a “needs improvement” in its Community Re-Investment Act exam, one of those measures that banks live and die by. That meant there was almost nothing they wouldn’t say yes to. So I hired people out of the community, we offered lessons on finance in church basements, everything. The bank passed.
What attracted you to the Mountain BizWorks job?
I would see job announcements and nothing ever appealed to me sufficiently for me to consider until this one came through a community banking list-serve. I started to read the job announcment. It was the longest job announcmeent I’d ever read. But I thought, this board knows what they’re looking for. … By far the most important thing to me was that this was an organization that could articulate so well what it needed now, as well as what it needed in the future. That clarity was very appealing to me.
What’s on your agenda when you arrive at Mountain BizWorks?
First I will say I have some listening to do. It isn’t just the board of directors or senior managmenet or staff that drives what needs to be done. It’s the community. I’m going to have to listen to what the issues are. I know that from converstaions with board, we have a strategic planning period coming up. I think this board understands some of the issues related to scale … Are they at the right scale now?
So you’ll be talking about growth?
It’s about how you deepen impact. How do you figure out if the need exists? Are you only there as long as funding lasts, or are you going to figure out a scale that means you’re a permanent institution there to serve? Our goal I would expect would be to reduce our reliance on subsidies, and there are a number of ways to go. There’s the Mountainmade store, which is a for-profit subsidy, and they’re doing it smartly. … Perhaps we could provide underwriting for other micro-lenders in the area.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t know if this is the case, but I suspect that people in general may not know what a jewel they have in Asheville, but Mountain Bizworks really is highly regarded nationally. That doesnt come cheaply. So you have to earn it, and I’m thrilled. To put it crudely, it’s mine to screw up. It’s a really established, highly regarded community development financial institution, and I want people to know I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor