Immigrants share their testimony of how they managed to take the step out of informal trade

For several years Lorena M. Sánchez worked as a street vendor and always afraid; her greatest fear was that the police arrived and took all her merchandise and stopped her.

By 2012, the resident of southern Los Angeles decided to start selling cosmetics or perfumery through a door-to-door catalog. In one of those sales he met a representative of Grameen America, an organization that financially supports small entrepreneurs. That day the unexpected happened. She was offered the opportunity to start her first formal business.

"With my first loan of $ 1,400 I bought many more products to sell (outside) of a swap meet," said the native of Jalisco, Mexico. "For the third loan I already had a place in that same market."

Sánchez, 45, is one of thousands of small business entrepreneurs in the United States who has benefited from financial assistance to get ahead. Now in his seventh year as a member of Grameen America, Sánchez says his achievements have not gone unnoticed.

"With my business I have been able to help my daughters," Sanchez said with his face full of pride, impossible to hide. She now has a business at a local in the city of Inglewood.

"I was able to help one of my daughters graduate from college and the second one is also going to graduate this year," he said smiling.

A similar experience was Prudencia López, who since she arrived in the United States from her native Guatemala, 30 years ago, has worked as a street vendor.

Prudencia López has an event food business and was hired to take her service to the opening of the new Grameen America office in Long Beach. (Jacqueline García)

“Five years ago, a friend told me about this organization, but first I went to ask why I couldn't believe it,” said Lopez, who sold street food, but now she is dedicated to making food for events.

After attending three meetings with Grameen America in Los Angeles, Lopez was able to verify that the help was genuine and did not let her escape.

“With my first loan of one thousand dollars I bought flowers and stuffed animals to sell for Mother's Day,” said the now 67-year-old businesswoman. She said that over the years and the increase in loans has also managed to increase her staff from one employee to three or five, depending on the event.

Sometimes it has come to make events for up to 500 people, he stressed. “For me these loans have been a blessing. Now I have three trucks and a van to go to the events, ”he said.

Both women were grateful to have met the non-profit microfinance organization which has been dedicated since its inception in 2008 to help women living in poverty create businesses to improve their lives and those of their families.

The organization offers small loans, training and support to transform communities and fight poverty in the United States.

To continue the work they have done, representatives of Grameen America joined East West Bank to announce the opening of a new location in Long Beach last week through a donation of $ 2 million from the bank.

"For more than a decade, Grameen America has helped low-income women build the business of their dreams, which helps the prosperity of the communities and economy of the United States," said the president and CEO of East West Bank , Dominic Ng.

"This collaboration makes it possible for us to continue helping valuable borrowers who might not otherwise qualify for loans from a traditional bank and achieve their business goals," the executive added.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is the founder of Grameen America. (Jacqueline García)

Grameen America was founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. They currently have offices in 14 cities in the United States and more than $ 1.2 billion in loans has been distributed to help create more than 126,000 jobs.

Sánchez and López advised all women with entrepreneurship, regardless of their age, not to fear and ask questions because that can change their lives.

"I advise them to continue and enter the organization because they give you a great opportunity," said Lopez, who has already motivated his sister-in-law and daughter to participate to open their businesses.

For his part Sánchez said that we should not be afraid because the loan is real. "It's not a fraud," he emphasized with a smile.

The Long Beach office is the third in Los Angeles County and is located at 316 E. Anaheim Street, Long Beach, CA 90813.

To learn more about this organization visit:


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