This story was originally published on medasf.org.
Back in Antigua, Guatemala, Sofia Lopez had a small business. She sold items like pocketbooks, belts, and wallets on the vibrant main square. She always wanted to run such a venture and was achieving success. That is, 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. She learned how to run a small business in the States. But this was a country with different rules than those in Central America.
Sofia also bettered her computer skills in the Digital Opportunity Center in Plaza Adelante.
Setting up shop
Once Sofia had graduated from the business workshop, she received free one-on-one coaching. The goal was to rent a retail spot. Finding a reasonably priced commercial space was a challenge already. The Mission Street location she found 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.
Being on a square in Antigua had translated to success for Sofia. So the new idea was to get a permit from the City and the police department. This way, 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, it finally happened. 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.
She had 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 they offered her 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. Diana explained how the nonprofit’s new Adelante Fund could help.
Adelante Fund 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.
With that new van, there is no doubt that success is just down the road for Sofia.