Back in Antigua, Guatemala, Sofia Lopez had a small business selling items like pocketbooks, belts and wallets on the vibrant main square. She had always wanted to run such a venture and was achieving success … until violence compelled her to leave her homeland a decade ago.
Now residing in San Francisco’s Bayview, Lopez initially cleaned houses to make ends meet, but a nagging feeling left her wanting to run her own business once more.
That became a reality once Sofia came to MEDA a few years back. She initially took MEDA’s Business Development seven-session workshop. That’s where she learned how to run a small business in the States — a country with different rules than those in Central America.
Sofia also bettered her computer skills in the Digital Opportunity Center in Plaza Adelante.
Once Sofia had graduated from the business workshop, she received free one-on-one coaching, with the goal of renting a retail spot. Finding a reasonably priced commercial space being the challenge that it is, the Mission Street location turned out to be on an inside corridor, despite the $1,200 a month rent. This meant a lack of foot traffic; some days not a single customer came into the store.
Knowing that being on a square in Antigua had translated to success, the new idea was to get a permit from the City and the police department so that Sofia could set up business each day in the heavily trafficked southwest corner of the Mission’s 24th Street BART station. After a few months’ process, payment of an annual fee and the assistance of MEDA’s Business Development department, Santo Hermano Pedro Boutique found its new home on the plaza, under a colorful tent to provide aegis from the noonday sun. Business immediately picked up.
There was just one problem left.
Every month or so, Sofia needs to make the six-hour drive to Los Angeles to meet with her wholesalers. That requires a large vehicle.
So Sofia went to a traditional bank in the Mission, but all she was offered was a credit card at a super-high interest rate at one bank and a personal loan at astronomical interest at another financial institution.
Sofia was at a loss of what to do.
That’s when she serendipitously ran into MEDA Community Loan Fund Manager Diana Matei-Golopenta, who explained how the nonprofit’s new Adelante Fund could help.
Adelante Fund was launched to provide access to capital for community-based businesses that may not be able to garner a loan at conventional financial institutions. Loans are available to small businesses throughout the nine-county Bay Area.
The result of that meeting is that Sofia has received a three-year loan for $5,000 to buy the mini-van she needs.
“I hope to see my business grow. To expand. That is my sueño,” states a zealous Lopez.
With that new van, there is no doubt that success is just down the road for Sofia.
If you have questions about MEDA’s Community Loan Fund, please contact us: (415) 282-3334 ext. 130; firstname.lastname@example.org.