The Local First Arizona Foundation has been selected by the Phoenix Business Journal as a finalist in their Phoenix Stories program. Thanks to Hensley Beverage Company for nominating us! We submitted the following story below. You can cast your vote for our story now through August 30, and give our Foundation the chance to win a grand prize of $10,000. Here is our story:
Laura was raised in poverty and left high school to work full-time to help her parents pay the bills. Within a few years, she was married with two children, and she became determined to create a better life for them, including a college education.
Laura dreamed of owning her own bakery. She loved the joy her creations brought to friends and relatives. In order to create prosperity for her family and set aside college money for her children, Laura decided to sell her baked goods. In her first year, she made $2,000.
Because her family was poor, Laura had never even opened a bank account and now as a hopeful small business owner, she realized she knew nothing about lending and borrowing. She had only used high-interest title loans for the capital needed to build her business, and now was having a hard time keeping up with the payments.
Then Laura heard about the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator, a Local First Arizona Foundation program designed to help entrepreneurial Latinas with no resources like herself. She applied and was admitted into the initial cohort.
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In the program, Laura learned the importance of accessing capital at reasonable rates and how credit scores affect borrowing. She began participating in the Fuerza Local lending circle, a money pool much like she had seen growing up, when family would share money in a lending circle to help each other in times of financial need. Now, she and her classmates each saved $100 a month to demonstrate that they were credit worthy. Local First took Laura’s schedule of on-time payments and reported them to their partners--two local credit unions--which agreed to accept the certificate of completion in the program, showing six months of on-time payments, in lieu of having any credit history. Additionally, when Laura had saved $1,000, she received a $1,000 matching grant from the Local First Arizona Foundation to invest in her company with her new business plan. The credit union also extended her a $2,500 line of credit at fair market rates, which she used to pay off her bad loan.
Today, Laura’s company operates from a commercial kitchen that enables her to serve large contracts for baked goods.
In less than 2 years, Laura has created 6 full time jobs since graduating from the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program.
Local First Arizona Foundation believes entrepreneurship is a pathway out of poverty. In the last two years, 44 individuals have graduated from the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program, creating 42 registered businesses, 59 new jobs, and over $780,000 in new revenue. Fuerza Local proves the American dream is alive and well. With support and education, hard work and dedication can build financial freedom and lift families out of poverty.
If you enjoyed this story, share it with your friends and vote for it as your favorite at the Phoenix Business Journal website. Click here to vote! You can vote now through August 30.