Personality: Harrison Nathaniel Roday
Spotlight on Bridging Virginia’s founder and board chair
11/16/2023, 6 p.m.
Harrison Nathaniel Roday learned the power of outside financial support when helping to invest in and run industrial manufacturing businesses 10 years ago in New York. He also learned that obtaining such support often is elusive for marginalized business owners.
“Seeing firsthand how access to capital helped strengthen companies, it was also clear to me that, time and again, small businesses in underserved communities never received the same resources as other firms,” Mr. Roday says.
This disparity, which was more pronounced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired Mr. Roday to found Bridging Virginia, a nonprofit community development loan fund, to ensure support for businesses and communities often left behind.
Bridging Virginia’s primary goal is to provide access to affordable capital and business resources for Black, women, and minority-owned small businesses.
Since its 2020 launch, Bridging Virginia has helped kickstart or sustain small businesses run by women and people of color throughout the state. As a result, the company has facilitated more than $550,000 in affordable funding for small business operations, along with referrals and technical assistance.
Whether aiding cooking, wine or clothing services, the organization also has helped numerous small businesses find success by growing in scope and contributing to the well-being of their communities.
Mr. Roday, who is Bridging Virginia’s founder and board chair, helps the nonprofit build momentum by navigating its financial and geographic expansion. He brings to the role years of experience working in finance and politics, including working as an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley and serving as a White House intern for then-Vice President Joe Biden in the Department for Scheduling in Advance.
Mr. Roday uses the skills he acquired in Washington and New York when forming partnerships with the Metropolitan Business League, Community Investment Collaborative and other community-oriented business groups that have been instrumental in Bridging Virginia’s growth and success.
“We want to provide even more small business owners with capital, referrals or technical assistance,” Mr. Roday says. “We want to raise more grant funds to support our work and that of our partners.
We want to expand to serve areas where our services are needed.”
The path to this growth presents obstacles and opportunities. According to Mr. Roday, Bridging Virginia needs more capital to provide its clients, with 65 individual entrepreneurs directy aided and $235,000 in loans provided to small minority businesses in 2022 alone.
Because the nonprofit is funded through donations from individuals, local partners and organizations with similar goals, collaboration is key to its success.
Despite such challenges, Mr. Roday believes that recent bipartisan support for community loan programs in the Virginia General Assembly is a positive sign not just for Bridging Virginia, but for the idea of “empowering people to improve their communities by building an economy that works for everyone.
“We will continue to raise capital and work with great partners,” he says. “Expanding inclusive economic opportunities for communities that don’t often see major investment is an issue that resonates with everyone, so our strategy will be to continue telling the stories of our amazing borrowers.”
“With any business we work with, their success is their story,” Mr. Roday says. “A great joy we’ve had is knowing that Bridging Virginia has played a small part in the success of our borrowers — who do transformational work in their respective communities.”
Meet a critical supporter of underserved and overlooked businesses and this week’s Personality, Harrison Nathaniel Roday:
Volunteer position: Founder and board chair of Bridging Virginia, a nonprofit community development loan fund that provides access to affordable capital and business resources for Black, women and minority-owned small businesses.
Occupation: After the first chapter of my career, I joined two friends in starting a software business.
Date and place of birth: Aug. 16 in New York.
Where I live now: Richmond.
Education: I’m a graduate of the College of William & Mary with a degree in government and finance.
Family: I have the best parents anyone can ask for and a younger brother who is much smarter than me, but don’t tell him I said that.
Bridging Virginia is: A non-profit community development loan fund, with a primary goal to provide access to affordable capital and business resources for Black, women and minority-owned small businesses.
Mission: Bridging Virginia’s mission is simple: to provide access to capital for historically marginalized communities and business owners. We do this through a supportive and collaborative approach working with many partners.
Bridging Virginia is for: Small businesses or nonprofits looking for flexible financial solutions. We provide loans of up to $50,000 to those needing affordable capital to support their growth and development. We work closely with our borrowers to understand the right amount of capital that their business can support.
No. 1 goal or project as board chair: As an organization, we want to continue to build on the momentum we’ve developed since 2020. We want to provide even more small business owners with capital, referrals, or technical assistance. We want to raise more grant funds to support our work and that of our partners. We want to expand to serve areas where our services are needed.
No. 1 challenge: We always have more demand for capital than resources available. Our team and our borrowers are absolutely incredible. The more resources we can add, the more businesses we can serve.
Upcoming events: I can’t spill the beans quite yet, but Bridging Virginia is about to make an exciting announcement in Hampton Roads. Stay tuned!
Ways to become involved: Shop local. If you are inclined to support organizations like ours, we accept tax-deductible contributions at www.bridgingvirginia.org. You can find our partners like MBL online at www.thembl.org.
How I start the day: Thankful for the opportunities I have.
The three words that best describe me: Upbeat, hard-working and motivated.
If I had 10 extra minutes in the day: I would listen to more music that is new to me. I tend to listen to music I know.
My dream dinner party guest would be: I have only ever had one living grandparent (and she is amazing). If I could meet one of my other grandparents and invite them to dinner, I would love to do that.
Best late-night snack: Oreo ice cream.
The music I listen to most is: It depends on what I have going on, but jazz, classic rock, and 1990s/2000s pop rock are heavy in my rotation.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love rock climbing.
A quote that inspires me: “We are reminded that, in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame, but rather how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.” — President Barack Obama.
At the top of my “to-do” list: 2024 goal-setting for Bridging Virginia and Foodshed Capital. We are excited and fortunate to be in a position to grow these nonprofits and support additional borrowers.
The best thing my parents ever taught me: We have an obligation to give back to a society which has given incredible opportunities to us. And how to safely drive a car in Manhattan.
The person who influenced me the most: Outside my parents – U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine. I can’t think of a better public service role model.
Book that influenced me the most: In recent years, I found “These Truths” by Jill Lepore to be quite profound. It is important that we tell the full stories about our collective histories.
What I’m reading now: I just finished the sci-fi book “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir. It was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law. My takeaway is that sometimes it’s OK to read a fun novel instead of always reading history and biographies!
Next goal: Continue to find ways to be involved in public service.