Author: lending8

Diana gets tails wagging with a small business loan


For Diana, dogs are so much more than little balls of love and fluff

Growing up in Mexico, Diana’s mother treated dogs like they were members of their own family. But when Diana moved to San Francisco at age 12, her family no longer had the space to accommodate a dog. She longed for the day she could bring a family dog back into her life, but it wasn’t until after college that she was able to make this dream happen.

After studying interior design at City College, Diana began her career working with a Home Stager. This was rewarding because she could make any house into a work of art. She could take an everyday kitchen and make it look like it was the set of a fancy cooking show, or a living room make it look comforting and homey just by arranging furniture and light.

When the housing market crashed in 2008, no one was looking to sell a house, let alone hire someone to make it look nice. The crash left her without a job and forced her to rethink her career trajectory. That’s when Diana began to look back on her childhood memories.

“I love animals, but I never thought there was a career in them,” Diana explained.

Diana decided to take a risk and jump into a new profession to start a job at a doggie daycare. She had been a lifelong pet owner, and doted on her French bulldog like a loving mom, but she had never done something like this professionally. But she quickly noticed some limitations with the work.

She loved every minute of working with the animals, but found herself frustrated by the long hours, low pay and limited upward mobility. As a result, Diana began looking for ways to become her own boss and set her sights on a opening a dog walking business.

Diana wanted to go to a bank and get a business loan, but she couldn’t. Even though she had lived in the U.S for most of her life, was a college graduate and had a full time job, she had no credit score.

“Once I knew I wanted to start a business, there was no turning back.”

She heard about a local nonprofit that could help her create a business plan through a friend and there she was able to get her dog walking business off the ground. One of the things that business planning taught her was how to find her niche. Diana decided that she didn’t just want to have a typical dog walking business. Instead, she wanted to combine her love of animals with eco-friendly values. She wanted to make sure that every part of her business was eco-friendly – from organic treats and foods the dogs enjoy, to sustainably sourced toys, and even biodegradable waste bags.

Within six months, she had her business license and Green Urban Dog was born. Now accredited to provide animal care, her eco-friendly services were ready to go by 2012. The next hurdles were building her credit score, getting more training and building a client base. To build her credit, she joined Lending Circles, where she went from zero to over 650 in just a few months. She then spent over 56 hours training in CPR and dog walking to learn the ropes. And by the end of 2013, she was able to land her first client. But before she could really call herself Green Urban Dog, she had one final obstacle to overcome.

Diana’s final hurdle was her gas guzzling car.

“I was spending nearly $90 a week in gas alone transporting the dogs across the city,” she said. She knew that she could save money, and fully green her business by purchasing a hybrid vehicle. Even though Diana now had a credit score, and enough income to make the monthly payments on a loan, her score was still below prime and so she couldn’t qualify for an auto loan for a car.

Diana came back to MAF because she heard about a program that provided zero-interest small business loans to business owners. With MAF’s help, Diana received a microloan for her business. She was able to purchase a used, energy efficient car to drive the dogs around. Since then, Diana has joined Lending Circle for Business to keep building her credit so she can gain access to larger loans from banks in the future.

Now with 12 full-time clients, Diana’s business is growing fast. She specializes in working with short nose breeds like English and French bulldogs – a tactic that helps her gain loyal and long term clients. She even runs a “Short-Nose Adventure club” for the pups that provides activities designed for short-nosed breeds.

“I tell everyone that I know, ‘go to Mission Asset Fund for a small business loan.’”

Building credit for the long-term while getting a zero-interest business loan has been a huge boost. Diana’s advice to aspiring business owners? Go for it! Although the road will be hard and scary, she believes “the sun shines for everybody” as long as they work towards their dreams.

Do you know of a small business owner like Diana in San Francisco? Tell them to sign up today at LendingCircles.org.

Dejando pasar oportunidades: mi vida antes de la ciudadanía


Mi camino de Soñadora a Ciudadana, y el ahora aprovechar todas las oportunidades gracias a Lending Circles para Ciudadanía

Las personas generalmente celebran su primer aniversario con papel, pero a mí me gusta hacer las cosas a mi manera. Yo celebré mi 14 aniversario de vivir en los Estados Unidos con papel: con la forma N-400. Esta forma es una promesa que mi madre hizo volviéndose realidad. Es una oportunidad para que yo obtenga mi ciudadanía en Los Estados Unidos. Con mucha alegría y emoción, con un pequeño paquete que incluía la forma N-400, mis fotos tamaño pasaporte y un cheque, comencé mi proceso para convertirme en ciudadana de los Estados Unidos el primero de abril. Este simple paquete de papeles significaba el mundo para mí. Fue mi esfuerzo, el esfuerzo de mi madre, el esfuerzo de mis hermanas y la promesa de un futuro mejor.

Mi historia de inmigración se trata tanto de mi madre como se trata de mí.

Mi madre sacrificó muchas cosas para traernos aquí y se enfrentó muchos obstáculos para criarnos en un lugar que, en aquel entonces, era extraño para ella. Mi madre dejó El Salvador escapando de un matrimonio violento, dejando a sus hijas y su vida como enfermera atrás en su último esfuerzo para sobrevivir. Dejó a su familia, a su trabajo y a la vida que conocía para que pudiéramos tener algo mejor; más de lo que ella podía darnos.

Yo dejé El Salvador dos años después de mi madre cuando tenía 11 años, con la promesa de que mis hermanas y yo nos reuniríamos con ella e iríamos a Disneyland (la mayoría de los niños inmigrantes que conozco vienen con esa promesa, aunque no hemos podido realizar ese viaje… aún).

¡En vez de Disneyland y estrellas de cine vine a vivir en el pintoresco Oakland, CA, que también está genial!

Aunque nuestro primer apartamento era pequeño y apretado, estaba lleno de amor y risas. Años después me mudé a San Francisco en donde pude echar raíces. Pero esas raíces no pudieron introducirse tan profundo en el suelo como lo había deseado.

Fue en mi adolescencia cuando realmente me di cuenta de lo que significaba ser indocumentada. En la preparatoria, dejé pasar muchas oportunidades debido a mi estatus migratorio. No pude ir con un grupo de chicas que visitaron Washington D.C. porque yo era una mucha responsabilidad para la escuela. Tampoco pude aplicar para pasantías para incrementar mi experiencia debido a que no tenía in número de Seguro Social.

Y entonces tuve que dejar ir una oportunidad única en la vida.

Estaba llena de curiosidad y deseaba explorar mi nuevo hogar, pero ser indocumentada me limitaba a explorar solamente California. En aquel entonces, nadie aparte de mis mejores amigas sabían que era indocumentada. Era la única en mi clase en esa situación y estaba temerosa de explicar la razón *verdadera* por la que dejaba pasar tantas grandes oportunidades.

Entonces tuve que dejar pasar la oportunidad de ir a la Universidad de California Los Ángeles debido a que costaba mucho y no podía calificar para un préstamo estudiantil. En 2006, cuando trataba de decidirme por una universidad, había pocos recursos para estudiantes indocumentados. Teníamos el AB540 que nos permitía pagar en matrícula estatal pero no pude calificar para Cal Grants o ayuda financiera federal como mis amigas ciudadanas. Así que terminé yendo a la Universidad Estatal de San Francisco y pudo terminar la universidad gracias a becas como la Chicana Latina Foundation Scholarship que no pedía un número de seguro social para poder calificar.

Tomó más de dos años de superar obstáculos de inmigración para ser residentes de los Estados Unidos, algo que no digo a la ligera.

Para poder convertirte en ciudadano de Estados Unidos, debes esperar cinco años después de ser residente para poder aplicar. Hace un año, anticipando nuestro quinto aniversario de ser residentes de los Estados Unidos, invité a mi madre y hermana a unirse a Lending Circle para Ciudadanía. Descubrí este programa durante mi pasantía en el Cesar Chavez Institute de la Universidad Estatal de San Francisco. Estaba trabajando como asistente estudiantil recolectando encuestas para una evaluación académica sobre prácticas financieras de individuos en el distrito de la Misión.

Mientras trabajaba para la escuela, escuché sobre los diferentes programas que ofrece MAF; uno de ellos siendo Lending Circles para Ciudadanía. Nos inscribimos para que el dinero que necesitábamos para la solicitud de ciudadanía no nos detuviera. Para nosotras tres, costaría más de $2,000 sólo por aplicar.  Con el aumento de los costos de vida en San Francisco, se ha vuelto más difícil para mi madre el estar al día con la renta y al mismo tiempo apoyar la carrera universitaria de mi hermana. El programa nos ha ayudado a ahorrar dinero cada mes para esta importante aplicación. Sabíamos que nuestro dinero estaría seguro con el programa de Lending Circle y que lo tendríamos disponible una vez que estuviéramos listas para aplicar.

En el programa Lending Circle, cada una hicimos pagos mensuales de $68 por diez meses para poder cubrir los $680 del costo de la solicitud de ciudadanía.

El ser residente ha sido una gran bendición. He logrado conseguir un trabajo que me encanta y he viajado a lugar con los que solamente había soñado. Lending Circles me gustó tanto que supe que quería ser parte de MAF. Fue emocionante el unirme al personal de MAF en el verano de 2014 como Coordinador de Programas. Mi trabajo me permite ayudar a individuos con historias parecidas a la mía. Veo en ellos los desafíos y oportunidades de mi propia experiencia como indocumentada en Estados Unidos y quiero estar ahí para ayudarles en su camino. Ahora que estoy en el proceso de convertirme en ciudadana, estoy especialmente emocionada de poder expresar mi voto en las elecciones presidenciales de 2016; ¡aquí voy!

Envié mi aplicación de ciudadanía el primero de abril de este año y estoy esperando continuar con el proceso de entrevista y juramento. Sigo animando a mi madre a hacer lo mismo manteniéndola al día con las ferias de ciudadanía al rededor de la ciudad, preparándola para las preguntas de la entrevista y ayudándola en maneras chicas pero constantes (como instalando una aplicación móvil de ciudadanía en su teléfono para que estudie). Mi meta es que ella aplique al final de este mes.

Quiero hacer tanto como pueda para ayudar a mi madre en su camino a la ciudadanía; así como ella ha hecho mucho por apoyar a mi hermanas y a mí.

Para mí, inmigración significa oportunidad. Significa supervivencia. Significa dejar atrás la violencia y el dolor de un hogar roto para crear nuevas memorias y experiencias en un lugar al que puedes llamar tu país. La vida en los Estados Unidos me ha dado muchas oportunidades pero también ha significado una buena cantidad de lucha.

Desde mis primeras memorias de vivir en un apartamento apretado con mis hermanas y madre, escondiéndonos en las sombras por 9 años debido a nuestro estado migratorio y hasta caminar hacia mi entrevista final para la ciudadanía. A la vista de todo eso celebro, me animo y sonrío.

Esta celebración no es sólo por mí. Esta celebración es para todos los que han batallado y luchado al enfrentarse a los obstáculos, a las bofetadas, a los sobrenombres, en su camino para encontrar paz y una mejor vida para sus familias. Estas victorias y luchas me han acercado más a mi madre, a mis hermanas y a encontrar una vida mejor para mí como ciudadana de los Estados Unidos. Ahora, mientras doy el paso final, reflexiono en el largo y dificultoso camino, en el papel con el que celebré mi aniversario, y en mi inminente ciudadanía.

Si conoces a alguien que pudiera utilizar Lending Circles para Ciudadanía, anímalo a que se inscriba hoy en LendingCircles.org.

Diana consigue buenos resultados en San Francisco con un pequeño Lending Circles por negocios


Paseador de perros consigue un pequeño préstamo de negocios en San Francisco que le da un impulso a su historial crediticio y a su negocio

Al crecer en México, la madre de Diana trataba a sus perros como si fueran parte de la familia. Pero cuando Diana se mudó a San Francisco cuando tenía 12 años, su familia ya no tuvo el espacio para tener perros. Ella esperaba con anhelo el día en que pudiera volver a tener un perro en su hogar, pero no fue sino hasta que terminó la universidad que pudo cumplir su sueño.

Después de estudiar diseño de interiores en el City College, Diana empezó su carrera trabajando con un Diseñador de Hogares. Esto fue gratificante porque podía convertir cualquier casa en una obra de arte. Podía tomar una cocina común y corriente y hacerla que pareciera el escenario de un elegante show de cocina, o hacer que una sala fuera más cómoda y hogareña simplemente reacomodando los muebles y la luz.

Cuando el negocio de las casas se desplomó en 2008, nadie estaba intentando vender su casa y mucho menos contratar a alguien para decorarla. El desplome la dejó sin trabajo y la obligó a volver a pensar hacia dónde dirigir su carrera. Fue entonces cuando Diana recordó sus memorias de la infancia.

“Me encantan los animales, pero nunca pensé que encontraría una carrera en ellos,” explica Diana.

Diana decidió tomar un riesgo y saltar hacia una nueva profesión tomando un trabajo en una guardería para perros. Siempre había tenido una mascota, y cuidaba a su French bulldog como una madre amorosa, pero nunca había hecho nada como esto de manera profesional; aunque rápidamente encontró limitantes en el trabajo.

Amaba cada minuto de trabajo con los animales, pero se sentía frustrada por las largas horas, salario bajo y oportunidades de progreso limitadas. Como resultado, Diana empezó a buscar formas de convertirse en su propia jefa y se puso la meta de abrir un negocio de pasear perros.

Diana deseaba ir a un banco y obtener un préstamo de negocios; pero no podía. Aunque había estado viviendo en los Estados Unidos casi toda su vida, había terminado la universidad y tenía un trabajo de tiempo completo, no tenía historial crediticio.

“Una vez que me decidí a iniciar un negocio, no hubo vuelta atrás.”

Escuchó acerca de una organización no lucrativa local que podía ayudarle a crear un plan de negocios a través de un amigo y con la cual podría hacer despegar su negocio de pasear perros. Una de las cosas que aprendió en la planificación de negocios fue como encontrar su nicho. Diana decidió que no quería simplemente tener un negocio típico de pasear perros. En vez de eso, quería combinar su amor por los animales con valores ambientalistas. Quería asegurarse que cada parte de su negocio fuera ecológico; desde golosinas y comida para perro orgánica y de buen sabor, hasta juguetes reciclables y bolsas de residuos biodegradables.

En tan sólo seis meses, ya tenía su licencia de negocio y Green Urban Dog vio la luz. Ahora con licencia para proporcionar cuidado de animales, sus servicios ecológicos estaban listos para iniciar en 2012. Los siguientes obstáculos eran crear un puntaje crediticio, obtener más entrenamiento y conseguir una base de clientes. Para desarrollar su crédito, se unió a Lending Circles, en el que pasó de cero a más de 650 en sólo algunos meses. Después pasó más de 56 horas de entrenamiento en RCP y paseo de perros para aprender los detalles. Para finales de 2013, pudo conseguir a su primer cliente. Pero antes de que pudiera llamarse a sí misma Green Urban Dog, hubo un último obstáculo al que enfrentarse.

El último obstáculo de Diana fue su auto que devoraba gasolina.

“Gastaba casi $90 a la semana tan sólo en gasolina transportando a los perros en la ciudad,” dice ella. Sabía que podía ahorrar dinero y hacer que su negocio fuera completamente verde al conseguir un carro híbrido. Aunque Diana ahora tenía un historial crediticio y suficientes ingresos para cubrir los pagos mensuales de un préstamo, su puntaje seguía por debajo del requerido y por tanto no podía calificar para un préstamo por un auto.

Diana volvió a MAF porque escuchó acerca de un programa que daba pequeños préstamos de negocios con cero intereses a propietarios de negocios. Can la ayuda de MAF, Diana recibió un micropréstamo para su negocio. Fue capaz de comprar un auto usado y eficiente en energía para transportar a los perros. Desde entonces, Diana se ha unido a Lending Circle para Negocios para seguir desarrollando su crédito y tener acceso a préstamos más grandes de bancos en el futuro.

Ahora con 12 clientes de tiempo completo, el negocio de Diana crece con rapidez. Ella se especializa en trabajar con razas de nariz corta como bulldogs franceses e ingleses; una táctica que le ayuda a conseguir clientes frecuentes y leales. Hasta tiene un “Club de Aventuras de Nariz Corta” para los cachorros con actividades diseñadas para razas de nariz corta.

“A todos los que conozco les digo, ‘vayan a Mission Asset Fund por un pequeño préstamo de negocios.’”

Desarrollar crédito a largo plazo obteniendo préstamos de negocios con cero intereses le ha dado un gran impulso. ¿Cuál es el consejo de Diana para los que desean abrir su propio negocio? ¡Adelante! Aunque el camino va a ser difícil y aterrador, ella cree que “el sol brilla para todos” mientras sigan trabajando para alcanzar sus sueños.

¿Conoces a algún propietario de un negocio pequeño como Diana en San Francisco? Diles que se inscriban hoy en LendingCircles.org.

Lesson Earned #4: (MAF) Metamorphosis


The best part about working for a small organization is the mobility that such a structure enables.

When you walk through MAF’s offices, you’ll notice the colorful walls and vibrant artwork that are so reflective of the members we work with. If you look closely, you’ll see much of this artwork integrates a very specific image: the butterfly. A symbol of the immigration community, the butterfly has a lot of meaning behind it.

It only seems natural that my time at MAF has mirrored the metamorphosis that all butterflies undergo.

In my first post, I talked about MAF’s agile nature and that things moved fast. I’ve spent the last couple of months jumping from project to project so quickly that I almost didn’t notice the transformation my role was undergoing.

It all began with the start of our BBA campaign, our efforts to expand Lending Circles throughout the Bay Area. My role at MAF changed each time these organizations took one step closer to becoming a Lending Circles provider moving from strictly a marketing position into the intersection of marketing and partnerships.

It’s in this new position where I will be best equipped to provide our partners with the tools they need to succeed.

I conducted outreach to invite them to our presentations in January (marketing), answered their questions about the program and application in February (outreach and programmatic knowledge) and reviewed their applications in March (partner success).

These large steps have brought me to where I am today: working towards creating and implementing systems that will enable long lasting partnerships with our Lending Circles providers.

Here are the pieces that will make up my position at MAF in the coming months:

  • Recruitment: Reaching out to organizations interested in becoming Lending Circles providers, explaining the benefits of the program and reviewing incoming applications.
  • Management: Helping our current partners get on-boarded and trained while providing them with continued technical assistance throughout their time as a Lending Circles Provider.
  • Retention: Building out our online Partner Resource Platform- Lending Circles Communities- while sharing provider success stories.

Partner management is the base around which recruitment and retention envelope.The three pieces together enable the butterfly to fly.

The recruitment piece allows MAF to set realistic expectations of the partnership. It also enables MAF to find organizations with a community who could benefit from the program and the capacity to see it through. Management smooths out all the bumps in the road. Finally, retention focuses on demonstrating support for the organizations we work with by providing them with the tools they need for continued success.

Being able to slide into such a role is a demonstration of why the mobile mentality at MAF works so well. As the number and type of partnerships we form grow, partners needs change. The weeks ahead are sure to include much training and learning on my end, but I’m looking forward to being in a place where those changing needs can be met.

Bringing together a Better Bay Area


MAF is bringing together the 10 best ideas for a more financially empowered Bay Area.

MAF is excited to announce the Better Bay Area initiative awardees! This moment has been months in the making. The Better Bay Area initiative launched late last year with support from Google, Y & H Soda Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to invite nonprofits in all of the 9 Bay Area counties to become Lending Circles providers.

Since then, we have been engaging with hundreds of people from a diverse group of organizations that provide imaginative and impactful programs and services and want to help their community build credit and increase their financial stability.

We are excited to be working with such an amazing organizations representing the diverse group of people and communities across the Bay Area to implement the Lending Circles program! In the next few months we will be sharing the stories of these new partnerships, the families they work with, and how lives are transformed through the power of Lending Circles. Stay tuned!


We’re excited to introduce the 9 organizations that will join the next phase of financial empowerment through credit building social lending in the Bay Area.

Brown Boi Project, Oakland:

Launched in 2010, Brown Boi works to empower womyn, trans-men, and queer/straight men of color to become social justice community leaders. They prioritize support that improves the lives of the community, and feel that financial empowerment and financial literacy are key factors in creating positive change. Brown Boi Project wants to implement the Lending Circle program to help their clients take their economic readiness to the next level.

Building Skills Partnership, San Jose:

BSP launched in 2000 from a collaboration of the SEIU-USWW and property service employers in Northern California. BSP improves the quality of life for low-wage property service workers and their families by increasing their skills, access to education and opportunities for career and community advancement California. BSP believes that Financial empowerment is a key factor towards acquiring individual success. They intend to use the Lending Circle program to provide hands on financial trainings that also support accessing money for citizenship fees , saving for college, and credit building for their clients.

Game Theory Academy, Oakland:

Game Theory Academy’s (GTA) mission is to improve economic decision-making and provide economic opportunities to low-income youth, to increase their financial stability and help them develop analytical skills that they apply to many areas of their lives. GTA is excited to incorporate Lending Circles into their programs in order to give young people the opportunity to build a strong credit foundation, practice budgeting in a supportive environment, and prepare for financial independence.

OBDC Small Business Finance, Oakland:

OBDC Small Business Finance’s mission is to create economic opportunity by empowering entrepreneurs. Through innovative partnerships, they provide business owners with capital, education, and relationships that allow their clients to flourish. Since 1979, OBDC has been helping their clients expand in size, increase their profits, and reach their goals. They plan to use Lending Circles to provide business owners with credit building opportunities, financial education, and community relationships to help their businesses thrive.

Peninsula Family Service, San Jose:

Founded in 1950 to strengthen families in the wake of Word War II, Peninsula Family
Service continues to help members of our community achieve their full potential. The organization reaches over 10,000 individuals each year, assisting underserved populations to overcome barriers to opportunity, financial stability, and wellness through an integrated network of tools and support. Lending Circles will bolster their existing Financial Empowerment services by adding a new credit-building tool to their innovative financial education, prepaid debit card, IDA, and vehicle loan programs.

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
, Mid-Peninsula / East Palo Alto:

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center breaks the cycle of poverty by bringing the power of entrepreneurship and financial capability programming to low-income and economically vulnerable individuals, families and communities. Through our Secure Futures partnership with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto and Nuestra Casa our Mid-Peninsula site is able to provides financial education and coaching to different communities in San Mateo County. As students are learning about setting savings goals, implementing household budgets, understanding the banking system and using credit beneficially, they are also introduced to safe financial services and products. Lending Circles will provide our clients with a safe and beneficial way to increase or build credit, lower existing debt or start saving for a predetermined goal of their choice!

Rubicon, Richmond:

Founded in 1973, Rubicon’s mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping low-income people to break the cycle of poverty with a personalized, comprehensive collection of services that includes job placement, housing, legal services, and financial literacy. The organization is looking forward to using Lending Circles to financially empower adults in their financial boot camp as well as those who have been formerly incarcerated and/or homeless.

The Unity Council, Oakland:

The Unity Council is a non-profit community development corporation committed to enriching the quality of life of families primarily in the Fruitvale District of Oakland since 1964. Its mission is to help families and individuals build wealth and assets through comprehensive programs of sustainable economic, social and neighborhood development. The Unity Council will use the Lending Circles credit building program to increase the capacity of their work with small business owners and aspiring homeowners, as well as help their low income clients rise out of poverty.

Veterans Equity Center, San Francisco:

The Veterans Equity Center is a nonprofit organization located in the South of Market of San Francisco. Established in 1999, VEC was originally established to provide services for Filipino World War II veterans. VEC has expanded its services to include low-income seniors, families, people with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQ, formerly incarcerated and homeless individuals. VEC provides support services to these groups through counseling, free legal clinic, affordable housing opportunity assistance, advocacy and activities for seniors and adults with disabilities. The Lending Circles program will complement their already robust services to further help immigrant and veteran clients become more financially empowered with the resources and credit they need.


Thanks to Jon D’Souza for his contributions to this post. 

Keeping Lending Circles hot with Chhaya


Check out how Chhaya CDC is using Lending Circles to support their economic development curriculum.

The temperature crept down to -1 degrees on the streets of Jackson Heights, New York. Even in the frigid conditions of this harsh winter evening, the Jackson Heights neighborhood is the quintessential American melting pot. People from all walks of life, all cultures, and all ages existing together. Even in the frigid dark of night, smiling, laughing people walked hurriedly over icy streets, through a light curtain of snow. The whole area is bathed in a flickering yellow and red glow, emanating from the neon lights floating in the night. Right off the bustling streets, away from the hum of the overhead train tracks, in a snow cloaked brick building, the Chhaya CDC offices released an unusually warm and inviting glow.

In the early 2000s, Chhaya, which means shade or shelter in many South Asian languages, came together to help provide housing assistance and community support to South Asian families. To ensure the long term stability of their community, Chhaya complemented their successful housing program with an economic development program. Through these programs, Chhaya was able to directly impact a larger range of social outcomes, including physical health, mental well being, increased financial security, community pride, and self worth.

With an already robust housing and economic programming, Chhaya was looking for a way to have their clients actually put their skills into practice, building their financial skills while building assets.

When they heard about Mission Asset Fund’s Lending Circles program, they knew it would be the perfect accompaniment to their financial education curriculum.  Chhaya applied through an intensive RFP process with National CAPACD (Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development) to receive technical support, training and financial assistance to implement the social-loan program with MAF.

Chhaya staff member Zarin Ahmed was one of the first staff working on the Lending Circles program after it had been implemented. “It was very daunting at first, selling the idea of Lending Circles to our clients,” she says as she lets out a little laugh.

The idea of informal lending is not new to South Asian populations.

Most know the Hindi term chit funds. Normally chit funds are done within family groups, so presenting the idea of social loan between community members was a little bit of a hard sell.

But Zarin and the Economic Development team at Chhaya had a great idea. They started their first circle with Zarin and several women who knew each other from a community group that Chhaya runs. Even though people loved the idea of Lending Circles, they were wary of this brand new program. But once people saw how safe it was, and when the women who were in the circles started telling their friends and family about it, there was an increase in interest in the program.

In its first year of partnership, Chhaya has provided access to $16,000 in Lending Circles to their clients.

The program is popular with their clients because they can put all of the economic training that Chhaya has provided them into action, while building the credit they need to thrive. They have already completed 3 Lending Circles with a fourth ending in March of 2015.

Along with Chhaya, National CAPACD sponsored three other Asian American development organizations with generous support from Citi.  National CAPACD has recently funded a second cohort of non-profits whom are about to launch their lending circles as part of their service delivery to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

MAF is proud to collaborate with National CAPACD and organizations like CHAYYA to implement Lending Circles.  We’re excited to see where we go next!

Thanks to Jon D’Souza for his contributions to this post. 

Lesson Earned #3: Think Small


With such a heavy focus on bringing organizations to scale, we’ve forgotten the power community holds.

Growing up, Mia Hamm posters plastered my walls – I even put one above my bed so the thought of joining the U.S. Women’s National team was my last thought at night and the first when I opened my eyes. Needless to say, I had a “sky’s the limit” mentality.

As I’ve grown older, I haven’t stopped dreaming big.

I searched for ways to achieve big impact in the world of civic engagement during my freshman year of college. That’s when I stumbled across social entrepreneurship, and immediately recognized the the opportunity social enterprises had to solve a social problem and scale it to reach more people.

It was through my work with social enterprises that I latched on to the Lean StartUp Movement. Last December, I was able to snag a free ticket to the Lean StartUp Conference.  Most people associate this movement with failing fast. More specifically, this method calls for commitment to iteration. Build. Measure. Learn. The conference shed light on what makes my work with MAF so fulfilling.

In the nonprofit world, there is a tendency to expand organizations as far and wide as possible.

This makes sense, of course, because social services should be given to all those in need. The trouble is, non-profits will build, measure and learn once (if at all) and then replicate the exact same model every time they expand to a new location. Yet what works in one community might not work in another. Your expanding organization most likely has no idea how to successfully implement its fantastic solution in a completely different environment.

The Lean Startup thinking is embodied in MAF’s partnership efforts. By working with partners to bring Lending Circles to different communities, we ensure not only efficient implementation of our programs, but also effective implementation.

Expansion through partnerships enables our mission to grow deeper instead of just wider.

This philosophy has manifested itself most recently through the Better Bay Area Campaign. This initiative allows us to reach more nonprofit organizations in the nine Bay Area counties working to improve the lives of those lost in the financial shadows. The Bay Area is pretty small, but the range of communities nestled within it is vast, each one with its own nuances.

As our community grows through these partnerships, we get to see all the exciting ways Lending Circles programs can be adjusted to meet more and more needs, like access to affordable housing.

This interaction sparks new programs like Lending Circles for Homeownership, initiated by long-time MAF partner, CLUES, in Minneapolis. The staff at CLUES realized that as their organization offers resources for homeownership, many of their clients were using the social loan received through Lending Circles to finance homeownership costs like down payments and other fees.

Since good credit scores and sufficient savings are vital to purchasing a new home, the Lending Circles program was the perfect path for these prospective homeowners to take. Iteration on the traditional Lending Circles program came easily and CLUES has already had 20 participants join this new program.

As we take on new partners at MAF, I’m excted to see how we can tailor the Lending Circles program to best meet the needs of the communities they serve. These small leaps from partner to partner lead to big impact – nearly $4,000,000 in social loans, over 3,000 clients served and 32 partnerships formed. Such results prove that small thinking is really anything but small.

When Passion Ignites a Path


After an eye-opening experience at a cleaning service company, Reina Aguilera left to start up her own business.

As a young child in her home country of Honduras, Reina Aguilera found herself cleaning and organizing her house so often that her family used to joke about her incessant need to organize.

When she grew older, she pursued an education in international business, unaware that her childhood habit would eventually turn into a career path. After four years in college, Reina got married and decided to move to the United States after seeing all it offered during her honeymoon in the Bay Area.

Though her husband found work in the United States quickly, Reina did not have the same luck.

Feeling homesick and frustrated that she didn’t have a fulfilling job, Reina began to question their big move to the United States. She made the best of the difficult situation by exploring San Francisco, taking English classes and developing a new network of friends.

Eventually, she landed a job as a housekeeper working for a cleaning service in the Bay Area. She loved the work and was eager to learn more about the business. But there was one problem: her boss made Reina’s work very stressful and unpleasant. This job challenged her idea of the U.S. as a place where anyone could pursue his or her dreams – a place where nothing bad could happen.

She felt like her world had been turned upside down.

The harsh introduction to the cleaning services world left Reina determined to be her own boss; she wanted to start and run the best cleaning services company on her own terms. And that’s exactly what she did.

After quitting her job, she took on a position at a taqueria during the week and slowly took on houses for her cleaning service on the weekends. Reina began with one client whom she found through her church community, and Reina’s Cleaning Services was born.

Slowly but surely more and more clients came her way as word got out about her excellent services.

When she and her husband divorced, Reina had to face many emotional and spiritual battles. Overcoming three miscarriages placed a heavy toll on her and made her feel that she would never be able to bear children. After separating from her husband, she now had more time to devote to her dreams.

She soon met the man who would become the father of her child. Despite the odds against her, Reina discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl in 2007. As her personal life took an exciting turn, so did her professional life.

Reina started taking business classes at Women’s Initiative (ALAS), and when time came to expand her business, her teacher referred her to MAF to get a loan. She joined Lending Circles in 2009 and used the money from her first loan towards the purchase of her first car, an essential investment that allowed her to travel to her clients’ homes. Since then, she has participated in 9 Lending Circles. She has used her loans to buy equipment for her business like a new vacuum and for repairs on a car.

Her participation in Lending Circles has enabled her to invest a total of nearly $4,000-$5,000 in her business.

Reina’s involvement with MAF has led to more than just investment in her business. She has watched her credit score increase with the scale of her business; a total of 77 points.

At age 39, Reina continues to stay active in the Lending Circles program and with MAF not just to continue building her credit, but also to pursue the other opportunities MAF offers her like business classes and new programs like the Lending Circles for Business Owners. She has also referred many of her friends to MAF’s services.

For Reina, MAF represents much more than just a place to grow her business; it’s a place where she can be empowered to grow as a person.

Reina looks forward to day she can hire her first employee, and hopes to hire those are in the position she was once in herself – those struggling to achieve their dreams. She also wants to her daughter to grow up and look to her business as a source of pride.

Reina ended our conversation by expressing her desire to inspire others. Despite all that she has been through, she has made it through and MAF is proud to have played a small part in helping her make her dreams come true.

Partner Spotlight: Henry of CLUES


An active member of the CLUES community, Henry has become an avid believer in the power of Lending Circles.

A firm believer in experiencing a product before trying to sell it, Henry was quick to jump on board to the Lending Circles program at MAF’s partner, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) in Minneapolis. He first learned about Lending Circles while working at Lutheran Social Services (LSS). Both organizations were involved in a social innovation fund that Henry was particularly interested in. Through this connection, Henry discovered the Lending Circles program.

He immediately sensed that LSS clients could benefit from the program and asked his staff to learn more by forming a Lending Circles themselves. Though his primary goal was to experience the program first-hand, Henry was also eager to rebuild his financial footing after getting a few blemishes on his credit report.

“I was 100% in from day one,” he said.

His first Lending Circle had a contribution amount of about $30. The LSS staff quickly realized just how feasible such payments were and grew even more excited when they began to notice the effects on their credit report. It was at this point that Henry began to see the value the Lending Circles program provides.

“We were all trying to accomplish the same thing and that’s really financial stability.”

As the Lending Circle cycle went on, Henry found himself setting small financial goals around the pending distribution. He chose to use his savings to buy his wife of 22 years a bracelet for their wedding anniversary. Henry has gone through two different Lending Circles, and continues to participate in order to save for a new car and build credit to get the best interest rate possible on the car loan.

Henry remembers his family as being committed to financial austerity from an early age. Even with this strong financial background, Henry saw how easy it can be to make financial mistakes. He has taken extra steps to ensure his daughter is well prepared for financial independent.  At age 8, she has a $2/week budget and has strict instructions to spend some of it, save some of it and donate what is left.

“If I had my dream, my daughter would be learning about financial literacy in elementary school”.

Henry believes strongly in the need for financial management training and credit-building opportunities within his own community. In his current role at Project for Pride and Living as the Housing and Financial Coaching Coordinator, he works with potential home buyers to build their financial portfolio in order to become strong candidates. Many members of the community he works with have a mistrust of the banking system and as a former banker, he hopes to help address this stigmatization. He feels the Lending Circles program can act as a vital step towards achieving that goal.

Doing More with Partners


MAF is partnering with the Mexican Consulate to offer Mexican DREAMers an Exciting Opportunity.

MAF is thrilled to announce a new partnership with the Mexican Consulate in SF to support Mexican nationals applying to DACA through the Lending Circles for Deferred Action program. Through this program, DREAMers are offered a zero-interest loan to help finance the cost of the $465 DACA application fee while building credit history and gaining access to financial education.

MAF’s Lending Circles for Deferred Action program was created to help low-income DREAMers overcome the cost barrier of applying for three-year relief from deportation after Obama’s announcement of executive action on November 20, 2014.

The government is taking a step forward for immigration action and we are ready to help families who need the financial support to apply for administrative relief.

Thanks to the Consulate General, up to 150 DREAMers of Mexican nationality will have the special opportunity to receive a 50% match, making applying for Deferred Action through Lending Circles an even better value! Participants like Alan Santos have already benefited from the Lending Circles for Deferred Action program.

As one of the first Lending Circle for Deferred Action participants, Alan is able to pursue his education and work as an advocate for undocumented youth. He hopes to become an immigration lawyer to alleviate the confusion and pain many youth go through in the Deferred Action application process.

MAF is looking forward reaching more hardworking families and youth like Alan with the support of the Mexican Consulate.

If you’re interesting in applying for the Lending Circles for Deferred Action program, visit lendingcircles.org and submit an application to MAF. Look out for enrollment and formation dates beginning this month.

For organizations currently working with DREAMers, you can learn more about how to get involved with the Lending Circles for Deferred Action program here. 

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