Owning a business can help immigrants build financial stability for their families, and while they have the skills, talents, and energy to contribute to a business, they lack the know-how and resources to start one. That’s where Catholic Charities of Camden’s Small Business Development Program comes in. Over the last ten years, this innovative program has helped immigrants start all kinds of businesses from lawn care to drain cleaning, auto repair to dog grooming, janitorial work to food services.
“We work with clients one on one. The curriculum is their business plan,” says Andy Zmuda, director of the program. “We become coach, therapist, and mentor. We ask them to do hard things. You have to have a relationship of trust to do that, and that relationship doesn’t come in a classroom.”
Once a viable business plan is developed, the program helps the client access a microloan fund so they can cover start-up costs. If necessary, the program works with the client to repair their credit.
One of the program’s successes is Yamin, an immigrant from Burma. He had lived in the United States for several years, working in food services, and consulted Zmuda about his plan to open a sushi franchise. Through the agency’s IDA program, Yamin was able to save the money he needed to buy a franchise and attend the company’s franchise training. He also was able to secure a $15,000 loan to get the business going. It took hard work, but Yamin succeeded and today owns two sushi franchises and is supporting his family well.
“Success is measured in many ways. It really depends on what people want to get out of it,” said Zmuda. “But one of our main goals is to help families get off public assistance. Self-sufficiency is exponentially liberating. It’s a better way of living life.”