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The Bend Magazine

Rise by Lifting Others

02/27/2020 02:00PM ● By Jessie Monsivais

By: Jessie Monsivais   Photo by: Maude Côté Davis

We’ve said it once, we’ll say it a million times more: we absolutely love locals supporting locals. After all, that’s basically the DNA of The Bend Magazine. That is why when an organization like LiftFund comes around, it’s hard not to feel connected to them. 

LiftFund Corpus Christi is a nonprofit organization that helps small business owners with limited access to capital have a chance to live their dreams. With offices in Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Laredo, and now Corpus Christi, LiftFund offers business loans and services to help small business owners, and those looking to own a business, with resources to do so. 

Corpus Christi native Janie Barrera is the CEO of LiftFund. LiftFund started in San Antonio 25 years ago, but with her push and a significant grant from the U.S. Treasury, LiftFund expanded to open an office in Corpus. 

“Corpus Christi is a dear place in my heart and was where I was pushing to open an office,” says Barrera. “We had a lot of assistance from the City of Corpus Christi, the Small Business Development Center that is part of Del Mar College, and from all the banks in Corpus Christi. I knew first-hand the struggles businesses have in Corpus. We wanted to share the opportunity that some small businesses don’t have because they lack access to capital and the training and education that they need to start their business or grow their business.”

Kosmo’s Hair & Nail Salon, Hester’s Coffee Shop, Threads, 361 Apartment Locators, and The Bay Jewel are just a handful of the local businesses that have prospered with the help of LiftFund. Laura Leal Estrada is the local marketing lead for LiftFund, and as a resident local, she knows how important small businesses are to the economy. Estrada sits with her customers, listens to what their business needs are, and assesses how LiftFund can help. 

“I schedule a time to make an introduction, visit with the customer, and go through the application process together, giving them the time they need and educating them. We try hard to make ourselves accessible to small business owners and to make it a very comfortable process,” Estrada says. 

LiftFund offers working capital loans from $1,000 to half a million for opportunities such as buying space or opening a second location. Estrada is there to help small businesses throughout the Coastal Bend with working capital loans at 4 percent. She also attends seminars with her clients at the Small Business Development Center, to help clients gain the tools they need to run a business. 

“There are a plethora of seminars. I can walk my clients to the seminars – helping them learn how to use QuickBooks and build credit,” says Estrada. “If we help them get prepared, they understand how to be an owner of the business. Sometimes I participate with them. We are learning together. The more we all know, the more we all prosper.”

According to Barrera, Corpus Christi is a trendsetter in helping LiftFund grow through the community. First established in the City of Corpus Christi, the Dream Maker’s Fund aims to close the capital and business education gap with lower interest rates and education for small business owners. 

“Small business is the true activator in our community. So many new ideas and initiatives start with small businesses, and people have a dream, and their dream is not just for themselves but the whole community,” Barrera says passionately. “The work we do is like the old saying, ‘Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.’ Except we help people buy the pond where they fish and leave it to the next generation – breaking poverty and leaving an asset.”

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