LONG BEACH, California – After living in New York for 25 years, hairdresser and Caribbean native Antonio Gonzalez is enjoying his short 20-minute scooter ride through Long Beach to a destination that is a dream come true: his very own hair salon.
Raised by a single mother and raised in poverty in Trinidad and Tobago, he never intended to own a business, but he entrusts the idea to his partner.
“So when we talked about moving to Long Beach, the goal was to move here, rent a chair at a beauty salon, expand our clientele and start our own business,” he said.
Gonzalez said he also planned to donate some of his sales to the families living in the shelters because he said it was important. But all of this did not go according to plan because the pandemic broke out a month after his move.
He hasn’t given up and has survived the past 15 months styling his hair outdoors, doing online tutorials, and mailing out dye kits to clients in New York City. He invested in the construction of his salon, which cost $ 20,000.
“Ideally, I was going to buy one chair, and then, you know, I thought, let me get two chairs and two sinks and really dream big, because by the end of the year I hope to be packed a few weeks before. “, – he said, standing in the brightly lit salon.
But he recently ran out of money and was unable to finish the salon. Gonzalez said it was difficult to get a loan at a good interest rate because it was his first time owning a business. It wasn’t until he discovered a loan from Kiva, an online crowdfunding platform, that he was able to borrow $ 9,500 to install sinks and buy furniture.
“Running a salon in a store is expensive, so the loan helped me get all my hair color, shampoos and styling products from retail stores,” he said.
But first, Gonzales needed to convince friends and family to donate just $ 25 over 45 days before Kiva could crowd-fund the remainder of the loan. He had dozens of people, including Long Beach resident and customer Pauline Middleton, who donated $ 50.
She said she liked Gonzalez’s goal of using some of his income to help those living in shelters.
“I truly believe that giving and doing good shouldn’t be so difficult,” she said. “And I think that working and communicating with organizations or people like Antonio allows you to do that.”
Miranda Rodriguez is associate director of the Los Angeles-based Community Initiatives Support Corporation, a nonprofit that supports community development, and matches dollar to dollar every donation made to the LA Kiva Hub loan that offers 0% interest. She said 85% of businesses in Los Angeles County have incomes of less than $ 300,000 and 60% of them have incomes of less than $ 150,000, with owners often finding it difficult to get financial assistance because they do not own their property or have no collateral. …
Rodriguez estimates that the Kiva Hub loan could help up to 400,000 businesses in the county.
“Because this is a loan, Kiva caps it at $ 15,000, so once you pay off the loan amount, you get your money, you get paid in about 72 hours,” Rodriguez said.
For Gonzales, 92 donors have been critical as he plans to welcome clients to his salon next month.
“This is really encouraging,” he said. “As a new business owner, it’s important to have a space that I enjoy and feel comfortable in, and I’m just very happy to open my doors and invite people.”