Colorado Enterprise Fund’s Ceyl Prinster Receives Denver Business Journal’s 2021 Outstanding Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award

Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award Recognizes Ceyl Prinster’s Decades-Long Commitment to Small Business Creation and Growth

Denver, CO (August 20, 2021) – Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF), a nonprofit lender that provides capital and coaching to small businesses and start-ups unable to obtain funding through traditional banks, is incredibly proud to announce their President and CEO, Ceyl Prinster, as the 2021 recipient of The Denver Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award.  

This is The Denver Business Journal's 23rd Outstanding Women in Business awards program, honoring women for their accomplishments in 12 categories, with one Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Presented annually by the publication, nominees are judged on their leadership, contributions and innovations within their organization, as well as their community involvement. Ceyl was recognized at the virtual awards program, which was held on Thursday, August 19.  

“If the past 16 months have taught us anything, it’s the important role that small businesses and diversity play in the Denver-metro-area community,” said Kevin Pitts, Denver Business Journal Market President and Publisher. “Over nearly 35 years, Ceyl’s leadership at Colorado Enterprise Fund has meant $163 million in lifeline loans for the small businesses that make Denver the innovative national leader that it is, with a focus on underserved entrepreneurs and communities. That work — combined with her mentorship and community service — obviously stood out to the program’s judges as they scored hundreds of deserving nominations. DBJ’s mission is to help our readers grow their businesses, advance their careers and simplify their business lives, and there’s a strong alignment between that duty and Ceyl’s work at CEF. I congratulate her on receiving the coveted Outstanding Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award and look forward to recognizing her at our 2021 virtual awards ceremony on Aug. 19.” 

In 1987, Ceyl became the first employee of CEF, taking the mantle as President and CEO. Stepping into a male-dominated industry, Ceyl embraced CEF’s mission from day one, and has grown the nonprofit into an award-winning, nationally recognized community lender, creating permeating impact for small businesses, communities, the local economy, and more. A pioneer of and a national leader in community development finance, Ceyl has dedicated her career to the organization, its mission, and her team. She has used her expertise and connections to make significant impacts within the small business community, and she is consistently called upon for her expertise, advice, and insight. Her leadership is exemplified through CEF’s year-over-year growth by positioning the nonprofit as a trusted and nationally known leader in their industry. 

“I have always forged my own path, whether that’s being among the first female graduating class at my alma mater, Notre Dame, to being an early advocate for expanding access to capital to grow the small business economy,” says Ceyl. "Receiving this award is an immense honor, particularly because it recognizes our organization’s positive impact on Colorado’s vibrant and innovative small business community.”  

Guided by Ceyl’s energy and leadership, CEF has grown from $200 thousand in assets to $65 million, and has made $163 million in loans to 5,132 small businesses that could not obtain funding from mainstream sources. Nearly 30,000 jobs have been created/retained as a result of those small business investments. With Ceyl at the helm, 2020 was CEF’s largest lending year since it was founded 45 years ago. When COVID-19 hit, and small businesses were forced to close, CEF pivoted to navigate the new landscape, resulting in an unprecedented year of impact. In total, CEF approved 2,633 new loans or grants and deployed $52 million. Of that, $18 million was provided as PPP loans to 779 borrowers and $5.1 million was provided as 183 COVID-19 Relief Loans. Through their core lending programs, CEF provided $8.9M in loans to 151 businesses. CEF also provided 4,864 hours of free coaching to help businesses through this period of little or no revenue. Through their coaching and access to capital, and with the help of many funding partners who helped make it possible, CEF helped more small businesses than in the last few years combined. 

Under her leadership, CEF has received numerous awards, including the 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award and the 2017 Impact Catalyst Award. Under Ceyl’s leadership, CEF was the recipient of the Jody C. Raskind Award in 2019, which honors mission lenders that demonstrate extraordinary commitment to the creation, growth and expansion of small businesses in underserved markets with a demonstrable impact on the communities it serves. Ceyl was also the recipient of the DBJ’s Outstanding Women in Business in 2011 and the 2018 David E. Bailey Award as Small Business Advocate of the Year from the Denver Chamber of Commerce. 

Outside of leading and growing the 45-year-old nonprofit, Ceyl’s additional community involvement comes naturally and largely focuses on fair access to capital and advocacy for underserved groups. “People are invested in their businesses…it’s part of who they are. It’s my role to say, you can do this and have this dream,” says Ceyl. 

About Colorado Enterprise Fund  

Founded in 1976, Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) provides loans up to $1M to finance small businesses and startups unable to obtain funding through traditional banks. CEF has dispersed more than 5,000 loans totaling more than $163M in startup and growth capital and created or retained over 27,585 jobs in the state. A nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), CEF is based in Denver with lending services available statewide. CEF makes a positive impact on Colorado’s economy by accelerating community prosperity through its financing and support of entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state. For more information, visit:  


Check out Denver Business Journal's article "Outstanding Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ceyl Prinster is a lifeline for Denver-area small businesses."

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