Alicia Paredes’s story could easily have ended like the ones we hear every day about families who have lost their homes and their hope after a layoff. Fortunately for her family, Alicia had started her own cleaning business with the help of Washington C.A.S.H. just six months before her husband, the family’s main breadwinner, lost his job in 2009. Now she works 10-hours a day, six days a week, but the pride she feels in supporting her family is worth it. “I’m so happy because we didn’t lose my house, we didn’t lose my car, I pay for my little boy who is in private school,” said Alicia. “Then I see that I doubled my income in one year, and I feel so proud, so happy. I said to my family, ‘You don’t have to worry.’ ”
Getting the tools to succeed
Alicia’s energy and perseverance have clearly been a big factor in her success, but Washington C.A.S.H.’s programs gave her the practical knowledge, tools and support to build her business. She started out by taking their eight-week Business Development Training course, and then graduated to the business management course, where she learned the nitty-gritty of cash flow, credit, taxes and managing business accounts.
In addition to the classes, Alicia got a lot of support from the volunteer coaches, who helped her design her brochure and business cards, from bi-monthly meetings with her peer business group, and from Washington C.A.S.H.’s Spanish-speaking staff. Washington C.A.S.H.’s business showcase events, where members can sell their products and services to the general public, were also critical in building her customer base, said Alicia. “Being a part of Washington C.A.S.H. and learning how to start a business and how to structure my business, that’s the best investment in my life.”
A hopeful future
When I met Alicia, she had just returned from her first vacation in several years and was helping her older son get ready to start college at the University of Washington this fall. She seemed filled with optimism about the future â€” a refreshing change from the somber economic news that assaults us daily. She’s even thinking about expanding her business by hiring a part-time employee. “My business is going up,” she said. “I love this work. My clients always refer me to more people. I’m going to talk to my coach about making my business grow, having one employee.”
A model for success
Washington C.A.S.H. serves people who have been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn. According to a recent New York Times article on the growing number of Americans living in poverty, “Median household income for the bottom tenth of the income spectrum fell by 12 percent from a peak in 1999, while the top 90th percentile dropped by just 1.5 percent.” All of Washington C.A.S.H.’s clients are considered low-income under local Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, while two-thirds are women, and more than half are people of color.
Washington C.A.S.H.’s clients are consistently beating the odds: an independent evaluation by the Aspen Institute found that nearly three quarters of training graduates reported an increase in income. And 95 percent of clients who had a business when they started the training were still in business 18 months later, as were 63 percent of all participants surveyed for the evaluation, including those who started with just a business idea.
Consider sponsoring an entrepreneur to attend a Washington C.A.S.H. training or a business showcase event. Your investment will help an aspiring low-income entrepreneur like Alicia gain the skills to become a successful, self-sufficient business owner at a time when our nation’s least advantaged are being left behind.