Who We Are

Mohamad Alshalabi

EAF client Mohamad Alshalabi creates Middle Eastern treats for his bakery, Shyira Sweets. (Amanda Mae Photography for JFS of Washtenaw County)

Mission

HIAS Economic Advancement Fund (EAF) provides access to financial products and services that promote economic opportunity and financial well-being for low-income forcibly displaced individuals, families, entrepreneurs, and their communities.

Story

EAF was founded in 2022 by HIAS, the Jewish humanitarian organization that provides critical services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people around the world. What began as a microenterprise development program of HIAS in 2017 serving two geographic markets, has since developed into a separate wholly owned subsidiary serving 14.

EAF represents a continuation of more than a century of HIAS history. In 1923, HIAS launched HIAS Immigrant Bank to facilitate money transfers to and from newly arrived immigrants’ families abroad — a service not offered by most U.S. banks. While the bank was later acquired, decades later HIAS has taken action again to fill a gap in mainstream finance by establishing EAF to expand support for entrepreneurial refugees across the U.S. We’ve seen again and again that when newcomers have the tools to leverage valuable skills from their home countries and achieve economic self-sufficiency, that’s not only good for their families and their neighborhoods — it’s good for America as a whole.

Staff

Phillip Bailey

Director

Phillip Bailey

Director

Phil leads the overall strategic direction and ensures EAF has the people, systems, and policies in place to effectively grow and build financial strength and operating efficiency to achieve its mission. Phil was previously the Program Manager for Microenterprise Development at HIAS, where he designed, launched, and grew the program that has now become EAF. During the past six years, Phil raised capital and operating support, oversaw portfolio performance and compliance, developed new loan products, and expanded to new geographic markets. His success gave HIAS the confidence to spin off the program as a separate legal entity. Phil previously worked for the International Rescue Committee and brings 13 years of experience in economic integration for low-income refugees in the U.S. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University and is certified as a Project Management Development Professional.  

Brenda Montecinos Villa

Lending Specialist

Brenda Montecinos Villa

Lending Specialist

Brenda oversees loan operations including underwriting, disbursement, servicing, and portfolio management, and provides technical assistance to partners. Her past experience includes providing culturally and linguistically appropriate financial capability and small business development services to refugees. She previously worked at the International Rescue Committee, leading the SBA Community Navigators Program to support refugee and immigrant business owners through technical assistance, access to capital, and navigation of federal COVID-19 relief programs. She previously served on the Community Advisory Board for the Utah Micro Loan Fund. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Rutgers University.  

Sara Edwards

Finance Specialist

Sara Edwards

Finance Specialist

Sara is a seasoned financial analyst with over five years of experience in managing diverse accounting and finance functions. Her responsibilities include overseeing day-to-day accounting operations, preparing comprehensive quarterly financial statements, and serving as the key point of contact for external auditors. She also brings private sector expertise, serving as an auditor for Comerica Bank and other corporations, where she conducted comprehensive audits, evaluated internal controls, and ensured compliance with regulatory standards. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in business where she specialized in accounting and finance. 

Kylie Hislope

Program Coordinator 

Kylie Hislope

Program Coordinator 

Kylie manages operations in Cleveland and leads EAF’s remote services project, which serves entrepreneurs virtually across the HIAS affiliate network. Her responsibilities include supporting refugee entrepreneurs with business technical assistance, financial and credit education, and accessing capital. Kylie previously worked for private and public corporations in financial planning and analysis. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Northeast Ohio SPCA – a no-kill animal shelter providing homes, adoptions and medical care to dogs, cats, and other animals. Previously, she served as treasurer and board member for Cleveland Angels, a nonprofit supporting families experiencing foster care. She graduated from The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business with a bachelor’s degree in business where she dually specialized in Finance and Real Estate Urban Analysis. 

Board

Alicia Wrenn

Chair

Alicia Wrenn

Chair

Alicia oversees U.S. programming for refugees and asylees, from their arrival to the long-term integration work. This includes livelihoods programming, such as employment and entrepreneurship; and social integration programming addressing the needs of the most vulnerable through intensive case management and group programming, through access to medical and mental health services, and through activities to promote belonging. It also includes creating communities that are receptive to refugees by engaging many partners and volunteers through a variety of models. HIAS implements programming with 26 partners spanning 18 states.  

Prior to joining HIAS, Alicia worked at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, where she launched their integration programming in their 38-site network. Before her refugee resettlement focus, she was the Executive Director of Kenya Connect, a Kenyan NGO improving the school experience and options for skilling up for students and teachers in 54 schools in Machakos County, Kenya. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.  

Bill Abrams

Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair 

Bill Abrams

Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair 

Bill Abrams is Trickle Up’s former president from 2005-2021, following a career as a senior executive and journalist for The New York Times, ABC News, and The Wall Street Journal. Prior to Trickle Up, Mr. Abrams served as President of New York Times Television, which produced documentaries and current affairs programs for cable and public television; President of 1France.com, a website for tourists to France; and a new-business consultant for Discovery Communications Inc. He spent 12 years at Capital Cities/ABC Inc., including five years as Vice President of Business Development for ABC News. He began his career as a staff reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Abrams has master’s degrees in journalism and business from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University. He has represented Trickle Up at numerous conferences, including the Skoll World Forum, Clinton Global Initiative, the Global Philanthropy Forum, Opportunity Collaboration, and Microfinance USA. He serves on the board of the US International Council on Disabilities and served six years on the board of InterAction. He lives in New York City with his wife Julie Salamon, a writer. They have two children, Roxie and Eli.

Tamra Thetford

Secretary

Tamra Thetford

Secretary

Tamra has over 20 years’ experience in program design and evaluation in community development finance. She is an expert at implementation and motivated by a drive for continuous improvement. At the Aspen Institute, Tamra established performance benchmarks for U.S. microfinance and designed successful peer collaboratives to make research actionable. Since 2016, Tamra has managed Justine PETERSEN’s partner-based credit-building counseling and lending practice. She also designed and led a multi-state entrepreneurship initiative for returning citizens.

Titi Ikhile

Loan Committee Chair

Titi Ikhile

Loan Committee Chair

Titi Ikhile joined Working Solutions in 2016 and serves as Chief Program Officer. She holds a master’s certificate in business analysis from Villanova University, and a B.S. in Finance & Entrepreneurship from University of Southern California. She is also a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional. Titi has worked in the area of small business lending and business coaching for over 10 years. Prior to joining Working Solutions, she worked for Citibank, JPMorganChase, Small Business Development Center at Contra Costa and ran her own consulting business. In her prior positions, she was responsible for managing and growing multimillion dollar clientele portfolios while overseeing the clients’ lending and deposit needs. In addition to her diverse background in lending and business coaching, she brings a wealth of experience in financial analysis, sales and, marketing and business development.

Gregory Mikulka

Advisory Council Chair

Gregory Mikulka

Advisory Council Chair

Gregory Mikulka is the Executive Director of Impact Investment Services at VCC Social Enterprises. Since 2018, Mr. Mikulka has been an adviser to impact investors, including foundations and CDFIs, regarding investment strategy, portfolio analytics, risk identification and mitigation, strategic capitalization, and other related areas. Mr. Mikulka previously served as Director of Consulting at High Impact Financial Analysis, LLC, where he launched the firm’s financial modeling practice and High Impact Portfolio Analytics, a cloud-based solution to support strategic impact investment through data driven insights. Prior to transitioning to the impact section, Mr. Mikulka served as a Financial Analyst at the investment bank Houlihan Lokey, where he advised on matters of valuation and economic damages, and as a Senior Financial Consultant at FTI Consulting in New York City, where he specialized in structured products. Mr. Mikulka graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia with degrees in Finance and Financial Economics. He has held both Series 79 and Series 63 licenses.

Adina Abramowitz

(In Memoriam)

Adina Abramowitz

(In Memoriam)

Adina was an advocate and leader in the community development finance field who exemplified integrity, compassion, and expertise. She left an indelible mark on countless lives, and her legacy will continue to inspire our work. You can view a collection of photos, memories, and quotes about Adina and her impact at CDFI Friendly America’s virtual memorial, The CDFI Industry Remembers Adina Abramowitz.

Our Partners

EAF works alongside HIAS resettlement partners that are local Jewish and secular service agencies working on the ground in communities across the country to help refugees resettle and integrate into their new communities. Although this can be a long process, refugees are resilient, resourceful, and an asset to their communities, building new businesses and enhancing their new homes with their skills and cultural contributions. Our partners are the local presence in each community we serve, providing entrepreneurial refugees with technical assistance, financial education, and assistance accessing capital to launch or grow their businesses through EAF.

Our Partners