Community Partner Highlight: Paul Quintero, CEO at Accion East and Online
1. How long has your organization been in the business of helping small businesses?
Our first office in the United States began in Brooklyn in 1991.
Accion’s first loan has shaped our organization into what it has become today. The story begins with Uvalda who emigrated from Northern Mexico where she had worked in the factories. She moved to Brooklyn with her husband and small child. The economic climate in 1991 is similar to today in the sense that it was a recession year. Banks and loan organizations had defaulted and unemployment was high.
Uvalda had lost her job in the manufacturing plant and was searching to find new work when she came across a food truck in a junkyard. She approached the owner with an offer to rent the food truck. She persuaded him to rent her the truck for a monthly fee, so that she could prepare and serve lunch for the nearby factory workers. Although the owner doubted her, the truck was a success. By month four, the owner could not keep leasing and needed Uvalda to purchase the truck. She negotiated a price of $500, but she didn’t have the money. Through word of mouth, she found out that Accion had begun lending microloans in New York. Our first loan was to Uvalda for $500 to purchase the food truck.
We located her twenty years later in 2011, and found that she had left New York and sold the business to start a new restaurant in Texas. She explained that her business had grown into two food trucks and then into two restaurants. She was able to pay for her children’s college education. Over 20 years, that $500 loan created many jobs. It proves what a small amount of money can do to transform lives.
2. What’s been your organization’s biggest hurdle in achieving its goals of aiding small businesses?
Creating awareness is our biggest challenge. We find that people still look to other unofficial lenders for loans. In terms of the digital era, people apply online, and by doing so they can obtain the wrong type of loans. There are many expensive, non-credit building alternatives that people turn to because they don’t know that other options exist. If more people knew about our organization, we’d be able to better serve more customers with accessing capital.
3. Describe any major accomplishments for your organization over the last year.
Our most recent accomplishment involves our response to Hurricane Sandy. From the time that storm hit in the end of October 2012 through June 2013, we disbursed $1.1 million in loans and grants. We helped those that had demonstrable adverse financial impact obtain financing. We have more flexibility with our underwriting, so it was a way to serve those that did not qualify for the City’s Emergency Loan Program.
4. What are the key strategic goals for your organization over the next year?
There are three strategic goals we’ve set for the upcoming year.
We are looking to improve our process through technology. Since we are a service organization, we want to be sure that our service experience is great. We’re looking to continue to improve our turnaround time by incorporating updated technology into the process.
Our second goal is to reach more clients through the web and/or mobile devices. We want to become part of the technology wave.
Lastly, we want to develop new products and services. We want to expand our reach beyond term loans and diversify our product offerings in the future.
5. What should a small business entrepreneur know about your organization?
There are three facts that that people should know about Accion.
•We’re fast - Within the industry, we have a reputation of having a very quick turnaround time. The process can be as short as 6 days if you have the necessary documents in order.
•The experience is personal – Every client gets one-on-one attention from our loan consultants. Entrepreneurs need to know that Accion is going to provide support throughout the loan process. We continue to create a personal experience even after the loan by promoting clients in the media and through events.
•We’re flexible - Our underwriting experience helps those who would otherwise not qualify for a traditional financing source. For example, we have very low FICO score requirements, we don’t require collateral, and six months of revenues qualify you for a business loan. These are a few of the many ways in which we show flexibility.
6. Where can they get more information about Accion?
Nationwide – 866-245-0783
NYC Office - 212-387-0494
Contact us to speak more about what we do here in New York State or beyond. Our reach expands to more than thirty states.
7. Describe your partnership with NYBDC and why it is instrumental to your organization achieving its mission.
The best example of our partnership is through the Hurricane Sandy Fund. Accion is an alternative option for people that may apply through NYBDC, but who don’t meet all of the criteria of their loan programs.
By partnering with NYBDC, we believe that we can help NYBDC’s clients by providing them with the capital they need at this stage of their business. We can supplement their capital needs with the financial education services we offer. As a client gets business support, their capital needs grow. Considering loans offered at Accion top off at $50,000, we refer clients to NYBDC when more capital is needed. NYBDC is an excellent partner for providing those higher-level amounts when businesses experience growth and need more funding.