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Tag: business

Celebrating Small Businesses: Cuztumly Crafted’s Story of Perseverance and Positivity

Even after Small Business Month has concluded, we continue to celebrate the incredible impact small business owners have on our communities and economy. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on Cuztumly Crafted, a San Francisco-based apparel company founded by Darius Coleman. Darius’s story is one of overcoming adversity, finding passion, and giving back to the community.

Darius’s journey hasn’t been easy. Growing up in poverty, he struggled with addiction and incarceration. But with the help of the city and his own determination, he turned his life around. He started Cuztumly Crafted in 2021, fueled by his passion for design and his desire to spread positivity.

“I didn’t have a very positive upbringing,” Darius shares. “My designs were initially a way for me to bring positivity into my own life. A way to create positive self-affirmations for myself. I put them on t-shirts and people started noticing.”

Spreading Positivity Through Fashion

Cuztumly Crafted is more than just an apparel company; it’s a vehicle for positive change. Darius’s designs are inspired by his own experiences and his belief in the power of self-affirmation. His clothing features uplifting messages and unique designs that encourage people to embrace their individuality and believe in themselves.

“I want my business to be spreading positivity throughout the community,” Darius explains. “I want you to feel important in society, no matter where you started.”

Overcoming Challenges with a MAF Business Loan

Starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges. For Darius, accessing the necessary resources was a major hurdle. But with the help of a MAF Business Loan, he was able to secure the funding he needed to purchase equipment like his heat press and embroidery machine, expand his inventory, and take his business to the next level.

“It takes money to make money,” Darius acknowledges. “MAFs Business Loan helped me get the equipment I needed to turn my designs into reality.”

Embracing Community: Giving and Receiving

Throughout his entrepreneurial journey, Darius has found invaluable support from organizations like Renaissance, the San Francisco Small Business Administration, and the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). These organizations provide mentorship, training, and resources that have been instrumental in his success.

“The city has been beyond supportive,” Darius says. “Programs like MEDA reach out to you and literally hold your hand through the process.”

Darius is deeply committed to giving back to the community that helped him during his darkest times. He partners with local organizations to feed the unhoused and donates a portion of his sales to charity. He also offers discounted prices to those who can’t afford his apparel, remembering his own childhood desire for designer clothing.

“I’ve been blessed to overcome a lot of struggles, and I have to give back,” Darius says. “I have to be that example, have to be something positive in the community.”

Looking to the Future

Darius’s vision for Cuztumly Crafted is to one day have a brick-and-mortar store where he can employ people from his community and empower them to chase their dreams. He’s also committed to continuous learning and growth, always seeking out new ways to improve his business and give back to others. His journey and experience has led him to have valuable insights to other inspiring entrepreneurs: “The greatest part about this journey is each level taught me to believe in myself more,” says Darius. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to invest in yourself, ask questions, and never stop learning. He also emphasizes the importance of community support and giving back to those who have helped you along the way.

Celebrating Darius’s Achievements

During this Small Business Month, we celebrate Darius Coleman and Cuztumly Crafted for their inspiring story of perseverance, passion, and community impact. His journey is a testament to the power of small businesses to create positive change and uplift those around him. You can support Darius by sharing his story and checking out his business at

Looking Ahead in 2015

We’re deepening our commitment to Deferred Action applicants and business owners with new programs.

It’s a new year and we’ve got a number of new changes in our programming in 2015 as we take steps to help more people navigate the financial marketplace and realize their full economic potential.

Origination Fee

After the enactment of SB 896 in August 2014, we now have recognition in California for zero-interest, credit-building loans as a tool for good. As we scale and expand in the San Francisco Bay Area, sustainability is a key element to MAF’s ability to reach more clients. In order for us to continue delivering the quality level of service and products, beginning in 2015, we are instituting a small origination fee of 5 to 7% for MAF’s clients in California.

Our loans will still remain zero-interest but this new fee supported by SB896 will allow us to cover the administrative costs from providing financial education, reporting the payment data to credit bureaus, facilitating transactions, and securing the private data with the best technology in the field. With this new source of funding, we plan to invest deeply in the community and ensure more people are able to participate in the Lending Circles program.

We’re also excited to share some new programs rolling out this year:

Lending Circles for Deferred Action

With President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, about 5 million more immigrants to the United States have the opportunity to apply for Deferred Action, an administrative relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants.

At MAF, we’ve offered two specific programs, Lending Circles for Citizenship and Lending Circles for DREAMers, to helping aspiring citizens and youth finance the cost of their citizenship and DACA applications. We’re proud to deepen our support for hard working immigrants with the launch of Lending Circles for Deferred Action to include anticipated applicants to the new DAPA program in the upcoming months. Expansion of this new program is made possible thanks to a PRI from the Rosenberg Foundation.

Lending Circles for Deferred Action will be kicking off in Los Angeles, thanks to a grant by the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation. The program will support 300 eligible applicants to reduce the cost of applying for Deferred Action by 33% – from $465 to $310. Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, Pilipino Workers Center and Korean Resource Center are the first Lending Circles partners to offer this program to the community.

And in San Francisco, we’re partnering with the Mexican Consulate to support Deferred Action applicants of Mexican descent with a 50% match.

Lending Circles for Business

MAF has many Lending Circles members who are building or repairing their credit to invest in their small businesses, so we’ve created Lending Circles for Business. This program is specifically focused on aspiring and current business owners who have completed a Lending Circle before. Participants will get an up-front loan that helps build credit and open doors to more affordable business lending options in the future.

Check out what some of our entrepreneurial members have accomplished so far to see how important good credit is to running a successful business.

If you’re excited about these opportunities, be sure to check out more about Lending Circles and sign up to join!

Javier: Striking Gold by Building Credit

An entrepreneur finds the secret to lifting up his business

Javier began his entrepreneurial career in the United States with a carpet business. Now, as a licensed contractor, he renovates old rental properties to manage or resell. After spending nearly a year working on the first property he bought, when he sold it at a profit, he was thrilled. He had found his American Dream. Javier thought that “flipping houses” was going to be his most lucrative business strategy yet. But when the market took a turn for the worst, he borrowed as much as he could from friends and family to pay his mortgages, but ultimately lost two of his properties and filed for bankruptcy.

Javier suddenly found himself at the bottom of a hole that banks and lawyers couldn’t help him get out of.

He opened one credit card before but after losing his properties, his score plummeted. He tried to apply for loans but the banks wouldn’t touch him. Not having credit was particularly difficult for Javier because it meant he couldn’t even rent tools from Home Depot.

Javier wasn’t sure what to do next. He had heard of Lending Circles and was familiar with the concept from growing up in Mexico. His mom would participate in tandas very often and buy things for him and his five brothers and sisters. Now as a father of three and the only source of income, it was critical for Javier to pay off his debt and take care of his own family. He decided to join a Lending Circle to build up his credit and learn more about financial management.

“Cash is good to buy, but credit makes it easy in the United States. Credit is gold. You don’t have credit, you don’t have anything,” Javier says.

With three years left in his bankruptcy program, Javier balances running his remaining properties and construction business and paying off his debt.

After finishing his Lending Circle, Javier now has a repaired credit score, which makes him more confident about going to banks and applying for credit cards. He is happy he has taken the first step towards improving his financial health and changing his life. Javier was even featured in a video for MAF’s 2014 Community Leadership Award, where he shared his story and how proud his family is for what he’s accomplished.

After working so hard, his goal is to take his family on a well-deserved vacation to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun to celebrate overcoming a difficult challenge and looking positively towards the future.