Low-income business hopefuls look to prosper from loan initiative
(Town Crier column written July 9.)
Fatima Ali got laid off from her job as a personal chef, but don’t think it’s getting her down — she’s applying for a loan to start up her own catering business.
The 23-year-old is one of several youth hoping to qualify for a one-year pilot project geared to helping would-be entrepreneurs start their own business venture.
The initiative was spearheaded by financial institution Alterna Savings, who has partnered with the Toronto Community Foundation and the City of Toronto.
It is geared to unemployed, out of school 18-24 year olds living in low income, west end neighbourhoods, including Bathurst-Finch, and Lawrence Heights.
“I was a private chef catering clientele meetings,” the bubbly Ali tells me at the July 8 launch of the micro loan initiative.
“When I’m cooking or baking, I’m in a positive vibe.”Ali was laid off from her job May 7.
“I’ve been applying to all these jobs, but because of my youth they want to start me at the bottom and for me to work evenings and weekends,” said the mother of a two-year-old son.
Her toddler is in daycare during the day, so she wants to start her own daytime business.
She’s jazzed that if she qualifies for the loan (about $5,000) it comes with other perks including mentoring, life skills coaching, training workshops, child care and transit tickets.
Another pair I met at the event, Xamuel Lozandieu and Robert Faustin, started RAW Catering Services in September and want a micro loan to help them expand.
The two are based in Rexdale and want to cater meetings and events with traditional sandwich and fruit platters as well as Haitian-inspired meals.
“It’s very tasty. Some spice but not too sweet such as rice and peas, chicken, noodles,” promises Lozandieu. “We cook it ourselves.
Our parents and others taught and mentored us.”
Alterna Savings has been providing micro loans successfully for a decade, but it’s the first time they’re partnering up with city agencies, according to president and CEO John Lahey.
Mayor David Miller said he has high hopes for the initiative.
“This is one of the projects I’ve worked on as mayor that brings me the most hope because I know it will work.”
I am hoping that the youth who are successful in receiving the micro loans all launch businesses that thrive and offer them hope for the future.
Kudos to Alterna, the Toronto Community Foundation and the city for taking a chance on some disadvantaged youth who have talent and passion.
Youth interested in applying, who meet the criteria, can contact UrbanArts Community Arts Council at info@urban
artstoronto.org or 416-241-5124.