Helping business focus
Isabel C. Velez Diez
Title: Director of Strategy & Operations
Name of Organization: Allies for Community Business
Isabel Vélez Diez is the director of operations and strategy at Allies for Community Business, where she previously served as the director of strategic initiatives. In her current role, she develops, implements, and monitors day-to-day operational systems and processes that provide visibility into organizational goals, progress, and challenges.
In 2020, in response to the pandemic, Allies for Community Business partnered with various government entities to disburse over $600 million in emergency funds to small business owners across Illinois. Velez Diez, while still performing her regular job duties, quickly pivoted to collaborating with government agencies to determine eligibility requirements, design applications, review processes, and funding processes for the grant programs in order to quickly and properly disburse the emergency funds.
Working with and hearing from small businesses owners suffering during a critical time energized her during the long workdays. “It was also incredibly helpful to learn from them what process improvements would make future programs more accessible and equitable to different communities,” she said.
Prior to her roles at Allies for Community Business, Vélez Diez was an assistant planner at the city of Chicago Department of Planning and Development where she worked closely with policymakers to create neighborhood development initiatives and affordable housing policy.
Vélez Diez was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to Chicago in 2013. She received a bachelor’s degree architecture from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and received a master’s degree in Public Policy from Loyola University.
She lives in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago with her dog Obi. In her spare time, she likes to sew and travel.
WORDS OF WISDOM: “It is easy to get discouraged by the immensity of structural issues so many communities face. But it is important, while not losing sight that these problems need to be addressed at a structural level, to understand and value the impact of smaller local efforts. It is also incredibly rewarding to be part of those efforts and it helps one keep fighting for the larger goal.”