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Tag: Lending Circles for Business

Sandra: An Artist-Entrepreneur Brings Her Vision to Life


Sandra’s journey — and her dreams — represent the strength of the Mission community.

Sandra’s creative style is all her own, but her story speaks for an entire community. She’s one of the visionary artists and entrepreneurs San Francisco’s Mission District has cultivated for generations. With Friscolitas, her mobile screen printing business, she has turned her craft into a career. And with the help of MAF’s Lending Circles for Business, she has built the foundation she needs to take Friscolitas to the next level.

But it all started back in her hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico.

The Journey

Sandra was just 12 years old when her mother, a single parent in Zacatecas, made the courageous decision to move to San Francisco, driven by the promise of a better life. Coming from Mexico to the Mission was a tough transition for mother and daughter alike, but they never regretted their choice. Thanks to her mother’s support, Sandra thrived in her new home.

Dreaming Big

Sandra has always had a desire to change the world in a big way. With a work ethic that matched her ambitions, she earned 3 degrees from San Francisco State University. After graduation Sandra began a career as a social worker, but her inquisitive mind was always looking for new areas to explore. She witnessed the changing demographics of her neighborhood and took note of the forces reshaping her community. She knew she wanted to keep the Mission’s unique flavor alive and contribute something of her own to its culture.

Friscolitas: Mission Raised

Her interest in screen printing began with a brainstorming session — not about potential business opportunities, but about ideas for inexpensive gifts she could give her family. In the winter of 2011, Sandra approached friends in her network who could help bring to life the designs that, until then, existed only in her imagination. The result: beautiful t-shirts emblazoned with Sandra’s distinctive take on Dia de los Muertos “Calacas” (skulls), grinning with Mission pride.

What started as a do-it-yourself gift idea has since become an business venture for this entrepreneur. Now she brings her t-shirts to the community at local art galleries,
restaurants, concerts, and festivals. Friscolitas has a growing clientele, attracted by its unique artistic style and its authentic Mission roots. Despite this increasing demand, Sandra hit a roadblock. She struggled to secure an affordable business loan because of a low credit score.

That’s when she found MAF.

Through our Lending Circles for Business program, Sandra pushed her credit score above 800, boosting her confidence and giving her access to business loans with much better terms. Her zero-interest social loan is funding a Friscolitas website so Sandra can finally showcase her work online and reach audiences far beyond her neighborhood.

Customers leave Friscolitas with more than just a t-shirt. As Sandra puts it, they “carry around her art,” heading back into the world with an expression of their shared identity. And there’s no better symbol of the power of the Mission’s culture and the bonds of its community.

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.