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.

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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