Permanent Footing For a Beauty Shop

Iris Santiago joins a long list of entrepreneurs in Roxbury, a Boston neighborhood, to benefit from the micro-loan program set up by Nuestra Communidad Development Corp.

Recognizing that access to money often makes or breaks small operations such as Ms. Santiago's, the development group set up a program to guide entrepreneurs through the loan process.

More important, it also pairs them with the lending institutions most likely to help them out.

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Santiago opened her Alexellis Beauty Salon five years ago and says now, "It was my first business. I didn't know anything I needed to know."

She panicked after opening and discovering that start-up costs had drained her bank account, leaving her no financial cushion. "It was pretty scary," she says.

But Nuestra Communidad walked her through the loan process and eventually helped procure a $5,000 loan to see her through those first months.

Today, Santiago surveys her four-chair beauty shop and three full-time employees and happily reports, "Business has been pretty good. I really can't complain."

The street on which Santiago operates has also undergone a transformation, says Evelyn Friedman-Vargas, executive director of Nuestra Communidad.

After Santiago's opening, the group persuaded Boston officials to refurbish a small park, open a parking lot, and improve building faades on the block. Several vacant storefronts have recently filled up, and according to Ms. Friedman-Vargas, "Everything now looks completely different."

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