Although I’ve been working for ECDI for almost five weeks now, up until yesterday I had yet to meet the often discussed founder of our organization, Inna Kinney. Although we had never met, her backstory and character are so integral to ECDI that I already felt like I knew her. There are many version of Inna that I’ve come to understand since being here. There’s Inna, the Russian Jewish refugee who immigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child. There’s Inna, the women who overcame language barriers and poverty in order to help other refugees with financial troubles through her first foundation, Jewish Family Services. Then there’s Inna, the enterprising visionary behind the ever-expanding ECDI organization, one of the largest SBA lenders in the country. The only version of Inna I had met prior to yesterday was Inna the CEO, a commanding presence over a conference call speaker who, despite surrounding herself with a capable team of leaders, still insisted on having the final say at almost every level of her organization. And finally, there’s Inna in person, a warm and passionate woman I have only recently started to get to know.
When Inna walked into the basement yesterday, I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not recognize her. She had been out of the office for much of the summer due to vacations and health issues, and when she was here most of her time was spent on the upper floors in meetings. There are many people from ECDI’s multiple departments and locations that I have yet to meet, so when a stranger walks into the basement I usually assume that they’re from the Cleveland office or maybe the lending department. When Inna stopped by my desk to introduce herself, I was completely unprepared for meeting the CEO and even more shocked by the fact that she already knew who I was. “Oh you’re Bryn! I’ve been hearing such good things about you from Tammy!” She exclaimed, quickly wrapping me a tight hug. After only knowing her through stories for so long, if felt sort of like I was being hugged a fictional character. As she rushed off to tend to more important matters, I was left to reconcile the character that I’d imagined over the past few weeks with the woman I had only just met for the first time. I think I like the real Inna Kinney even better than the legend.