Creating a Place of Beauty: All in One Hair Studio gets a boost from the Step Up Loan Fund at Cooperative Federal (excerpted from their newsletter. Used with permission.)
Dreaming of a business of her own: Belkis Espinal is one determined lady. After fifteen years of working as a hairdresser in other people’s shops, she decided to open her own place. To build up her clientele for the new shop, she spent two years working part time in a salon, as an employee, and part time at home, on her own.
Meanwhile she signed up for a class in starting a small business. Her teacher was so impressed with her plans and her budding business that he offered to work with her as a partner.. Her new partner brought two important assets to the operation – business expertise and fluency in English. Belkis is originally from Puerto Rico and, as she puts it, “more comfortable in Spanish than in English.” However, after only a few months the partnership dissolved “because we had different ideas as to what the place was about.” Belkis had developed her clientele by providing a level of creative, personalized service that her partner just didn’t understand. Losing her partner was a setback, but she was determined to follow her dream. With the support of her family, she filed all the necessary paperwork to open as a sole proprietor and started looking for a home for her business.
The dream becomes a reality. Belkis’ daughter, Yuriana, who served as translator for our interview, describes the place they found on North Salina Street in one word: “Destroyed.” It had at one time served as a social club, but had long since been abandoned. The whole family helped clean it out and re-create the space as a salon. When asked about the family effort, Yuriana says simply, “It’s part of the Latino way of being. We’re very tight in that way.” They found the storefront in March, 2009, and two months later All in One Hair Studio opened for business. Without taking out a business loan, they were able to rent the store, refurbish it and buy the needed equipment. Soon the business began doing so well that Belkis employs two part-time assistants. Most of the customers are Spanish-speaking, like Belkis, and seem to appreciate the special place she has created, as well as her talent as a hairdresser.
A Step Up Loan moves her forward. As the salon became established, Belkis started to look for an infusion of capital to help the business grow – but two banks in a row turned down her request, saying that the business was too new to have a strong track record. She decided to try Cooperative Federal, a nonprofit, community credit union with a branch just a one block up the street from her salon. While she still didn’t qualify for a regular business loan, Cooperative Federal was able to help her with a $2,200 Step Up Loan – a special microloan fund that was founded with support from the Gifford Foundation. She used the money to add a line of retail beauty products to her business, increasing her bottom line and bringing her one step closer to her dream.
Excerpted from article by By Barbara Kobritz, Cooperative Federal Outreach Volunteer