Accion in Colorado (Accion) increases access to business credit, makes loans, and provides training, which enable entrepreneurs to realize their dreams and be catalysts for positive social and economic change.
Founded in New Mexico in 1994, Accion has since expanded into Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas. Accion has issued more than 13,481 loans totaling over $132.8 million to some 8,791 small businesses in our five-state region. Our work is creating tangible economic impact, with an estimated 18,628 jobs created or sustained by client businesses. Accion expanded to serve Colorado in the latter half of 2008 after more than ten years of statewide service across New Mexico.
Accion invests in the ability of local entrepreneurs to realize the American dream of being economically self-sufficient, as well as create opportunities for others. By offering character-based business loans at fair market rates with quick turnaround times, Accion is bridging the "credit gap" that can prevent hardworking and visionary entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential. By utilizing business credit as a tool to increase financial education, Accion offers emerging entrepreneurs additional tools of economic self-reliance. A constant element of our work is client empowerment and inclusion: clients have helped shape the organization's credit policy, interviewed loan officer candidates, and served on key committees. A former client currently serves on Accion's board.
Accion is recognized at local and national levels for our commitment to accountability, innovation, sound management, and demonstrable results. We received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, ranking us among only 4% of charities nationwide that have earned at least seven consecutive 4-star ratings. Accion is certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution, and we are a member of the Accion U.S. Network, the largest microfinance network in the United States.
When native Cubans Yuneisi Oliva and her husband, Greico Herrada, relocated to Colorado from Florida, there were many things they missed. One of their heartaches was the lack of Cuban food. Inspired to do something as a family, Yuneisi and her mother started selling homemade Cuban food at local festivals. "My mom taught me to cook and do everything in the kitchen," she says. "She's my right hand." Their food was a hit, and Yuneisi knew they could expand their operation.
She went in search of capital for a food truck but was turned down by a traditional lender due to insufficient income. Yuneisi was referred to Accion and was quickly approved for a small loan. The food truck was a success, and less than a year later, the financially savvy Yuneisi paid off her loan and began saving to open a restaurant. With the help of another small loan from Accion, Yuneisi opened El Bohio Criollo Cuban Cuisine restaurant in Golden, Colorado.
Reflecting on starting a business that has grown rapidly, Yuneisi notes, "It was stressful but later on I thought, I'm going to make it, don't worry." Today, El Bohio is a growing family-run business. Yuneisi proudly employs her mother, younger sister, husband and three sons, in addition to a few locals.
Down the road, Yuneisi plans to open more El Bohio locations with room for live music and salsa dancing. Reflecting on her experience, she concludes, "I'm very happy to know Accion. I can count on them. I always have Accion in my mind for something in the future."