Sandra Nieto, designer

Client of Accion East in New York City

When Sandra Nieto first moved to the United States from her native Colombia, she took on whatever jobs she could get: babysitter, maid and beauty salon assistant. But in the back of her mind she knew she really wanted to design clothing. “People would encourage me to start my own line,” says Sandra. “I was hesitant, because it’s the type of industry that you have to fight hard in.”

And fight she did. Sandra began devoting seven days a week and many late nights to cutting, sewing, and creating her clothes. The problem was having enough money to continue to design. “Everything I earned, I needed for food.” She looked into getting a bank loan, but no one would lend money to someone with no credit history.

When Sandra applied for a loan with Accion East, she found that Accion valued what other banks did not. “I applied and got approved, surely because of my years of experience and the momentum I already had going.” Sandra put the $6,000 loan toward renting space and hosting two fashion shows, and she started using what she earned to continue to build her business. The profits also came in handy when an unexpected emergency occurred; Sandra’s husband lost his job in 2010, the family was devastated. But all was not lost: Sandra had grown her business to the point where she could support her entire family herself, getting them through tough times.