By Hanah Cho The Dallas Morning News.
Microlender Accion Texas is partnering with the Dallas-based Hispanic 100 network of female leaders to raise $250,000 for a capital fund for Latina business owners in North Texas.
The "Latinas Empowering Latinas" fundraising campaign announced Thursday is part of a statewide effort by the Eva Longoria Foundation.
Last year, the foundation and Accion launched the Latina Loan Fund to provide small business loans for Latina entrepreneurs in Texas.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation committed $1 million to support the fund.
The fund disbursed 58 small business loans totaling $500,000 last year. Of that amount, 22 loans totaling $161,000 were given to Latina business owners in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, according to Accion.
Over the next year, the local campaign to raise $250,000 for the Latina Loan Fund will be allotted specifically for the Dallas region. The campaign is seeking corporate and individual donations.
"We wanted to take it to the next level in North Texas," said Luther G. Branham, president of Accion's North Texas market. Under Branham, the North Texas market has ramped up its efforts. So far this year, the office has disbursed $1.47 million in 135 loans, exceeding last year's total volume.
In North Texas, 40 percent of Accion's clients are women, while 34 percent are Latino, Branham said.
"We expect to bring in more Latina entrepreneurs as we get more awareness in the market," he said.
For the Hispanic 100, it made sense to get involved in the fundraising effort because advancing Latinas in leadership and employment is a mission for the nonprofit, president Lydia Gonzalez Welch said.
Welch knows firsthand how difficult it can be to access capital as a Latina entrepreneur. She tried to get a bank loan when she launched Latino Culinary Institute five years ago.
When she was turned down, Welch turned to her savings and credit cards to fund her business, which provides wellness services and cooking demonstrations for corporate clients.
"It's always challenging to be able to get funding when you decide to start a company," Welch said. Latinas are starting businesses in great numbers.
They owned 944,000 firms last year, generating $65.5 billion in revenue, according to American Express Open's 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
The study also found that Texas was the second-largest home to Latina-owned companies, with a 25 percent share.
Adriana Fernandez received recently a $1,000 loan from the Latina Loan Fund to buy a new computer and larger signs for her insurance business in Mesquite.
Fernandez started her own business two years ago after buying her former boss's client list, establishing Hadriss Insurance Services.
At that time, Hernandez used her savings to get her business started.
She went to Accion when she was turned down for a bank loan.
Besides the capital, Fernandez said, Accion has been invaluable because the microlender also offers financial workshops to help her business grow.
"They're giving me more opportunities to help my business," she said.