Micro-Business Loans

Investing in Economic Opportunity

Hilaria HernandezHilaria Hernandez loves to sew. She started when her children were young, 21 years ago. “I had an opportunity to go to sewing school she recalls. “I learned how to make children’s’ clothes.”

Since that time, she has expanded her skills considerably. Eight years ago, she began doing minor repairs for friends, using a small second-hand machine. The work helped a little, but it didn’t pay the bills for this family of four.

At that time, Hilaria, her husband and the four children lived in “a beat up old trailer” in a colonias. They heard about ACLF and applied for a home loan. “It came in real fast and I was surprised. But we bought the house.”

Once the family was settled, Hilaria wanted to sew full time. She took business classes through ACLF and learned the business side of a sewing enterprise. She’s still in contact with her professor; she sews his shirts and he gives her business advice.

Hilaria new she needed new equipment. Her old machine kept breaking, which was discouraging and expensive. She obtained an ACLF loan for a commercial sewing machine that meets all of her needs. But she still keeps the old machine in sight, to remember where she came from.

“Now I can say I really sew,” Hilaria says proudly from her large, sunny sewing room, which was once the family’s living room. Hilaria has contracts with a security company, the local school district, and two hotels.

Her passion, however, is designing. “Someday I’d like to open a boutique and sell clothes with my name on the label. As long as I have goals, I know I can move forward to achieve them.”


ACLF’s Economic Opportunity Loan is its second most important product.

To date, over 155 colonia families have received these loans to support micro-business development. The loans are designed to create wealth and build assets as a means of improving the family’s economic status, thereby improving their quality of life. The successes of these entrepreneurs are also leveraged when they serve as role models to others members of the community who may have lost hope. The entrepreneurs have already created nearly 75 jobs and are contributing to their community, as well as to the general economy.

A micro-business loan leverages the entrepreneurial spirit of colonia residents to start or expand a home based business. ACLF’s investment is focused on improving their capacity to a level that will result in the creation of a legitimate, formal, small business generating an increase in gross sales or services of at least 50% within the first year. The average micro-business loan is for $2,500.

Prior to receiving the loan, applicants must attend a certain number of classroom hours of training and workshops designed to provide them with a basic understanding of starting and operating a small business, and assistance in the development of a business plan.