Partnership serving to immigrants in Maine get zero-interest business enterprise loans

Deborah Bafongo began her South Portland organization, Angels of Adore Party Layout, in 2019 with no any exterior financial loans or grants.

Bafongo specializes in giving decorations for official events, specifically weddings, and had hoped she would be able to do the job on sufficient weddings in 2020 to be capable to gain back the cash she used on devices. However, when the pandemic strike and weddings ended up canceled en masse, Bafongo located herself in require of some extra enable to keep her business enterprise afloat.

Through a mutual close friend, she read about a application being offered by way of the Better Portland Immigrant Welcome Heart that would deliver curiosity-totally free loans to organization entrepreneurs like her. Bafongo, who immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 and life in South Portland, been given a mortgage of $2,500 with a repayment time period of 21 months. She ideas to use the funding to invest in a greater storage device to use as a showroom for her models, as effectively as much more gear.

“I genuinely essential the money,” she reported. “As an immigrant, I’m really grateful that this system is there to aid us realize success in the profession that we’re undertaking. … At that stage (because of the pandemic), I truly required some thing coming from someplace to assist me.”


The funding for Bafongo’s organization is the final result of a partnership involving DreamxAmerica, or DxA – a nationwide initiative combining storytelling and effect to help immigrant communities established by Andrew Leon Hanna in 2018 – and Kiva, a nonprofit that makes it possible for people today to lend dollars on the net.

DxA produced the storytelling element of its undertaking, a documentary featuring three immigrant business people in North Carolina, in November 2020. When it arrived time to start the effect side of DxA’s task, Hanna approached Rohit Agarwal – the head of Kiva’s U.S. software and a relationship from the time that equally spent performing at international administration consulting company McKinsey & Corporation – to type a partnership that could deliver funding for immigrant business owners.

Immigrant entrepreneurs can encounter troubles accessing standard financial institution financial loans – occasionally mainly because they absence proven U.S. credit score histories and occasionally mainly because of racial or cultural discrimination.

“A whole lot of occasions, the banking program does not take care of very low-revenue minority immigrant people as well as they need to,” Hanna said. “Sometimes, there’s a ton of distrust and often there are premiums that are unfair. … Why we take pleasure in Kiva is that (the mortgage) is very pure, it’s really uncomplicated. There’s not any price to analysis or other hidden service fees. It is zero interest, zero costs.”

DxA companions with four local companies nationally – together with the Welcome Centre – that market the mortgage chance and assistance organization owners all over the application procedure. Employees at DxA edit apps to tell their stories much more concisely in an effort and hard work to draw in as a lot of loan companies as achievable, and a group at Kiva reads the formal applications and establishes the bank loan total the company qualifies for. Then, DxA promotes the small business owner’s borrower profile until the financial loan is entirely funded.

Agarwal claimed the regional corporations DxA associates with are essential to building have faith in in Kiva’s personal loan plan.

“The primary way for us to develop have faith in – and within a good deal of these communities there is rightfully a first rate amount of money of distrust in classic fiscal establishments – is by means of reliable associates on the floor,” Agarwal stated. “And there enters DreamxAmerica, which I believe has accomplished a great work building rely on via immigrant welcoming centers (and) by way of diverse other intermediaries to say, ‘Hey, here’s a superior resource of money, zero-rate, zero-desire.’”

These area corporations usually previously have near partnerships with immigrant enterprise entrepreneurs and can provide as a dependable intermediary.

“Most small-small business immigrant business people aren’t likely to just wander on to the Kiva site and say, ‘Oh, this seems excellent,’” Hanna claimed. “You need somebody to vouch for it.”

Navid Ahadzadeh, a recipient of an $8,500 curiosity-no cost mortgage for his Casco-centered enterprise, Scratch Master Cellular, a touring vehicle maintenance shop, utilized element of the financial loan to acquire a new van. Derek Davis/Personnel Photographer

IMMIGRANT Business people

The Welcome Center’s business enterprise hub, which was commenced in 2017, performs that part in Maine by connecting immigrant business homeowners with various resources of cash.

“Research shows that immigrants, nationally, are a lot more very likely to start enterprises and tiny businesses than native-born Us citizens,” reported Reza Jalali, the center’s govt director. “By performing so, (business enterprise house owners) create positions not only for them selves but for some others in the neighborhood. Element of what we do at (the) business hub is aid immigrants to obtain funding and then enable match them with loan companies.”

So significantly, seven Maine enterprise homeowners have had their financial loans totally funded by way of the DxA-Kiva Specific Initiative, with two other folks continue to in the procedure of becoming funded.

Navid Ahadzadeh, the founder and proprietor of Scratch Master Cell, a cellular auto repair service company dependent in Casco, knew Jalali through the community Iranian immigrant neighborhood and efficiently used for an $8,500 personal loan to grow his business. He utilised part of the financial loan to invest in a new van.

“Because my organization is a cell enterprise and (simply because of) my aged van, the selections I have were type of limited,” Ahadzadeh claimed. “So when I get a even bigger van, it (will be) more dependable, additional skilled. It will search expert.”

Ahadzadeh moved to the U.S. in 2009 from Sari, Iran, mainly because of persecution in his home place that restricted his vocation choices.

“I’m a Baha’i, and the Baha’i is a highly persecuted religious minority in Iran,” Ahadzadeh reported. “Baha’is in Iran are not permitted to go after larger instruction, and lots of organizations owned by Baha’is are shut down by the govt. So recognizing that persons out there are serving to you for the loan and all the things else in a different place just tends to make me extremely satisfied.”


In addition to encouraging with immigrant organization owners’ restricted accessibility to cash, interest-cost-free financial loans have a spiritual significance for several, as well. Typically, Islamic legislation forbids paying curiosity on financial loans, foremost several Muslim immigrant small business proprietors to seek financial loans from resources other than traditional banks. This was the case for Humza Khan, the founder of Inclusion Maine, a diversity, fairness and inclusion consulting company centered in Westbrook. He acquired a personal loan of $6,500.

Humza Khan

“One detail that intrigued me about this application was the interest-cost-free component of it,” explained Khan, who was born in Pakistan but grew up generally in Maine. “I could of course go to – any individual can go to a lender, or they can go to venture cash, they can go and increase the income … but for me, really for religious reasons, I preferred to keep away from fascination.”

“(With the loan), I can spend in the things that I’m operating on and spend it off about a period of time and continue to be in compliance with (my) spiritual beliefs,” Khan added. “That’s what attracted me to this application as opposed to a much more traditional selection.”

Khan used some of the funding to shell out for extra marketing, but his major goal is to host a convention.

“One of the points that I’m hoping to target on is a conference for diversity and inclusion,” Khan reported. “So it is a focus on bringing people alongside one another that are fascinated in this do the job and discovering about what the regional difficulties are and how we can tackle them and what is working. … I’m hoping that (the conference) won’t be also pricey for people, so this bank loan will undoubtedly support with acquiring me started off in creating that doable. It has helped now.”

For Jalali, the software also is precious as an indication of the alternatives readily available to immigrants in Maine.

“Bringing some income into the condition is generally fantastic news, and supporting our new neighbors who have been displaced by wars and famine and persecution,” Jalali explained. “So, it is excellent for Maine in a condition wherever we’re working with an growing old workforce. We require extra immigrants, and can (this application) turn out to be 1 way of attracting new immigrants?

“Can this be a way that some immigrants in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, will seem at Maine and say, ‘Well, that’s a good state to go and start off a business enterprise?’ This will be genuinely great for us in the long operate to appeal to more corporations (and) far more youthful people (who are) expert, educated and inspired to arrive and increase to the richness of our group.”

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