Partnership aiding immigrants in Maine get zero-curiosity business enterprise loans

Deborah Bafongo started out her South Portland small business, Angels of Like Celebration Design, in 2019 without the need of any outside the house loans or grants.

Bafongo specializes in furnishing decorations for official gatherings, specially weddings, and experienced hoped she would be ready to do the job on more than enough weddings in 2020 to be equipped to gain back the revenue she used on devices. Nonetheless, when the pandemic strike and weddings were being canceled en masse, Bafongo uncovered herself in want of some additional help to preserve her company afloat.

By means of a mutual pal, she listened to about a plan currently being provided by way of the Larger Portland Immigrant Welcome Heart that would provide curiosity-free of charge financial loans to company house owners like her. Bafongo, who immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 and lives in South Portland, been given a mortgage of $2,500 with a compensation expression of 21 months. She strategies to use the funding to order a bigger storage device to use as a showroom for her models, as well as more tools.

“I really necessary the money,” she said. “As an immigrant, I’m seriously grateful that this platform is there to support us triumph in the occupation that we’re undertaking. … At that position (due to the fact of the pandemic), I really needed some thing coming from someplace to help me.”


The funding for Bafongo’s enterprise is the final result of a partnership in between DreamxAmerica, or DxA – a nationwide initiative combining storytelling and impact to assistance immigrant communities founded by Andrew Leon Hanna in 2018 – and Kiva, a nonprofit that will allow persons to lend revenue online.

DxA produced the storytelling part of its job, a documentary featuring three immigrant business owners in North Carolina, in November 2020. When it arrived time to launch the impression facet of DxA’s task, Hanna approached Rohit Agarwal – the head of Kiva’s U.S. program and a link from the time that the two expended operating at world administration consulting business McKinsey & Corporation – to type a partnership that could supply funding for immigrant enterprise homeowners.

Immigrant business people can facial area troubles accessing traditional bank loans – at times simply because they absence founded U.S. credit history histories and at times simply because of racial or cultural discrimination.

“A great deal of periods, the banking program does not handle low-profits minority immigrant folks as properly as they must,” Hanna stated. “Sometimes, there is a ton of distrust and sometimes there are costs that are unfair. … Why we value Kiva is that (the mortgage) is extremely pure, it is pretty simple. There is not any charge to exploration or other concealed charges. It’s zero fascination, zero charges.”

DxA partners with four community organizations nationally – including the Welcome Center – that publicize the bank loan prospect and support company house owners in the course of the application course of action. Employees at DxA edit applications to convey to their stories more concisely in an energy to entice as many creditors as probable, and a workforce at Kiva reads the formal purposes and decides the loan amount of money the business qualifies for. Then, DxA encourages the business owner’s borrower profile until the bank loan is fully funded.

Agarwal said the local organizations DxA partners with are critical to constructing trust in Kiva’s mortgage plan.

“The key way for us to build rely on – and in just a lot of these communities there is rightfully a respectable volume of distrust in regular economical institutions – is by way of dependable partners on the floor,” Agarwal stated. “And there enters DreamxAmerica, which I believe has carried out a wonderful work making trust as a result of immigrant welcoming centers (and) as a result of distinct other intermediaries to say, ‘Hey, here’s a excellent supply of funds, zero-payment, zero-curiosity.’”

These regional businesses normally presently have near partnerships with immigrant small business house owners and can provide as a trustworthy middleman.

“Most small-company immigrant entrepreneurs are not going to just wander onto the Kiva site and say, ‘Oh, this appears great,’” Hanna explained. “You need to have any individual to vouch for it.”

Navid Ahadzadeh, a recipient of an $8,500 interest-free loan for his Casco-centered business enterprise, Scratch Master Cell, a touring automobile fix store, utilized section of the mortgage to acquire a new van. Derek Davis/Staff members Photographer

IMMIGRANT Entrepreneurs

The Welcome Center’s company hub, which was began in 2017, plays that role in Maine by connecting immigrant enterprise proprietors with different resources of cash.

“Research reveals that immigrants, nationally, are extra very likely to start off firms and modest organizations than native-born Us citizens,” reported Reza Jalali, the center’s government director. “By executing so, (small business entrepreneurs) produce careers not only for on their own but for others in the community. Portion of what we do at (the) business enterprise hub is help immigrants to entry funding and then assistance match them with loan companies.”

So far, seven Maine organization proprietors have experienced their financial loans completely funded via the DxA-Kiva Distinctive Initiative, with two other folks nonetheless in the process of currently being funded.

Navid Ahadzadeh, the founder and operator of Scratch Master Cellular, a cellular auto repair service provider dependent in Casco, realized Jalali through the neighborhood Iranian immigrant group and efficiently used for an $8,500 financial loan to broaden his company. He made use of component of the mortgage to obtain a new van.

“Because my enterprise is a cell business and (simply because of) my old van, the possibilities I have were type of limited,” Ahadzadeh stated. “So when I get a even larger van, it (will be) more reliable, far more expert. It will appear specialist.”

Ahadzadeh moved to the U.S. in 2009 from Sari, Iran, simply because of persecution in his residence country that minimal his job options.

“I’m a Baha’i, and the Baha’i is a remarkably persecuted religious minority in Iran,” Ahadzadeh said. “Baha’is in Iran are not allowed to go after greater instruction, and quite a few corporations owned by Baha’is are shut down by the governing administration. So recognizing that men and women out there are aiding you for the bank loan and every thing else in an additional state just makes me extremely happy.”

Beneficial FOR MUSLIMS

In addition to supporting with immigrant enterprise owners’ constrained obtain to cash, curiosity-absolutely free financial loans have a spiritual significance for lots of, as effectively. Customarily, Islamic legislation forbids shelling out interest on loans, main quite a few Muslim immigrant business house owners to look for loans from sources other than conventional banking institutions. This was the scenario for Humza Khan, the founder of Inclusion Maine, a range, fairness and inclusion consulting firm primarily based in Westbrook. He gained a loan of $6,500.

Humza Khan

“One issue that interested me about this plan was the interest-no cost part of it,” explained Khan, who was born in Pakistan but grew up primarily in Maine. “I could naturally go to – any individual can go to a lender, or they can go to enterprise capital, they can go and increase the cash … but for me, seriously for spiritual causes, I desired to stay clear of fascination.”

“(With the financial loan), I can devote in the factors that I’m doing work on and pay out it off around a period of time of time and nevertheless be in compliance with (my) religious beliefs,” Khan included. “That’s what captivated me to this plan vs . a more common solution.”

Khan utilized some of the funding to pay for more advertising and marketing, but his most important purpose is to host a meeting.

“One of the matters that I’m hoping to aim on is a meeting for diversity and inclusion,” Khan stated. “So it is a target on bringing folks collectively that are interested in this operate and discovering about what the community issues are and how we can address them and what is doing the job. … I’m hoping that (the convention) will not be too pricey for folks, so this personal loan will unquestionably assist with finding me started out in creating that doable. It has served now.”

For Jalali, the method also is valuable as an sign of the options readily available to immigrants in Maine.

“Bringing some funds into the condition is generally very good information, and supporting our new neighbors who have been displaced by wars and famine and persecution,” Jalali mentioned. “So, it is good for Maine in a state in which we’re working with an ageing workforce. We will need additional immigrants, and can (this system) turn into a person way of attracting new immigrants?

“Can this be a way that some immigrants in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, will appear at Maine and say, ‘Well, which is a wonderful point out to go and begin a enterprise?’ This will be truly superior for us in the extensive operate to bring in much more corporations (and) far more youthful folks (who are) qualified, educated and motivated to appear and add to the richness of our group.”