MICRO-ENTREPRENEUERS TELL THEIR STORIES
Chef Rae | The Savory Experience
Chef Rae left a career in the IT industry to follow her passion for cooking. A caterer since her teens, she formalized her culinary training receiving a Bachelor's in Culinary Management from The Art Institutes in 2012. However, like most entrepreneurs, turning her passion into a successful business presented a challenge. She enrolled in the UH Microfinance program classes that were hosted at the Neighborhood Center, Inc. Independence Heights campus. That program taught Rae basic business skills and partnered her with Bauer College of Business students from the University of Houston. Ultimately, Rae developed a detailed business plan. She was selected to present her business to community microfinance lenders where she was named as one of six semi-finalists. After completing her interviews with the lenders, Rae was one of the entrepreneurs that received vital microfinance support.
Rae firmly believes that experiencing food engages all five senses. Her business targets catering intimate dinner parties so that her clients enjoy her food on all levels. She partners with sommeliers, musicians and professional wait staff to complete the experience. Her business is growing with both returning and new clients.
Rae credits the UH Microfinance program classes for providing her with objective, professional feedback on her ideas. This included changing her business name, (from Divalicious Dish to The Savory Experience) which has proven to be a very successful improvement. The classes introduced Rae to all areas of business allowing her to build a strong business foundation for her dream business. She is continuing to receive training through the Incubator program presented by the UH Microfinance Initiative, a graduate student organization. In the Incubator, she is receiving more detailed business advice and mentoring. She was also selected to participate in the Incubator's innovative marketing program. She was paired with marketing students in the MBA program at Bauer who created a detailed market research and a marketing plan for her business. This type of service would have been cost prohibitive for Rae in the private sector. Between the Microfinance program classes and the Incubator, Rae feels she has all of the tools and support that she needs to create a very successful business.
D'Ambria Jacobs | Sophisticated Delights
D'Ambria Jacobs was referred to the Microfinance course by one of her professors at UH. In addition to pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Finance, D'Ambira was working to turn her luxurious desert business from a hobby into a business. She enrolled in the Microfinance course as a student during the Spring 2014 semester and worked alongside the entrepreneurs to develop her own personal business plan. She was starting in the same place as many of the entrepreneurs - a concept and a dream. Through the microfinance program classes, she learned hands-on business practices such as what licenses she needed to obtain and where to apply for them. She refined her business plan and pitched it to microfinance lenders in December 2014.
D'Ambria's vision is to recreate nostalgic luxury in her desserts. She features liquor infused desserts which have truly unique flavor profiles featuring local goods. By targeting young professionals, she is focusing on providing her delights to individual clients as well as catering larger events. She works closely with her clients to customize her treats to their taste palette. Since completing the Microfinance program classes, she has quadrupled her revenues.
D'Ambria experienced the UH Microfinance program as both a student and an entrepreneur. As a student, she found the class was a unique experience. The class provided real world applications of the business principles she was learning as a finance student. As an entrepreneur, she received guidance on how to take her dream and turn it into a viable business. The Microfinance program class also provided her with a support network of other beginning entrepreneurs. As she says, "We became a family." D'Ambria finished her Finance degree in December 2014. She is planning on continuing her business training with the Incubator program presented by the UH Microfinance Initiative. With this support and training, D'Ambria is well on her way to making her dreams a successful reality.
Enrique Arana | Link Transport USA
Enrique and his brother, Jose Arana, had a vision for brokering transportation between manufacturers and independent carriers. They had identified a need in the industry and brought industry experience to their vision. However, their plans were very sketchy with no business plan, financials or strategy. In September 2014, Enrique joined the UH Microfinance Program classes at the Neighborhood Center, Inc. Ripley House campus. During the classes, Enrique was exposed to all components of successful business ventures. He was most impacted by the legal and accounting aspects, which he realized that he and Jose had not considered fully. Enrique was partnered with a UH Bauer MBA student, Brian Lopera, who had an extensive experience in commercial lending. Enrique was mentored through the development of a strong business plan and pitch presentation. At Graduation, Enrique presented his business to our judging panel. In January, Enrique secured funding from Accion Texas (now Lift Fund www.liftfund.com) allowing Enrique and Jose to launch their business.
In the short time that Enrique and Jose have been open, they have already booked revenues from matching up manufacturers and carriers. They are on track to continue to grow throughout 2015 by focusing on excellent service and competitive prices for their clients. By partnering with both manufacturers and carriers, the dream of providing a critical logistics function is now becoming a reality. Using the techniques he learned in the UH Microfinance program, Enrique is now confident in the administrative and accounting tasks necessary for good business practices.
Enrique found that the UH Microfinance Program classes were a comprehensive overview of how to run a business. He was particularly impacted by the legal and accounting sections which he says "opened his eyes". He found that the knowledge shared by the lectures and interactions with the UH Bauer student as the most important part of the program. He was also impressed by the connections that were made. Through his pitch, he created a contact with Accion Texas (now Lift Fund) which allowed him to secure critical financing. Obtaining that financing was streamlined because he approached the Microfinance fund with a solid business plan. Enrique also connected with other entrepreneurs in the program and they are continuing to support and motivate each other after the classes concluded. Through the UH Microfinance program, Enrique and Jose Arana have a solid foundation on which to see their business grow and their dreams realized.