The sign above the entrance reads “Sebastián Boutique.” With its thoughtful window dressing and well-lit interior, this shop on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador is every bit as smart as any clothing store in the city. Although it may appear to be just another average clothing shop, Luis Sebastian Tierra’s business is the result of remarkable dedication and a little support from a very special financial institution: Accion’s partner CREDIFE.
When Luis was just 11, he started working in construction with his father 120 miles south of Quito in Riobamba. By age 22, he had become a foreman and moved to the big city. A couple of years later, Luis lost both hands in a tragic work-related accident.
He speaks about the event with a certain detachment – almost as if it had happened to someone else. But he remembers important details: the hospital bill, where he spent almost five months after the accident, was close to $10,000. He had just sold his house in Riobamba for $6,300. He borrowed money from friends and family and sold everything he owned – including home appliances – to settle accounts with the hospital.
One year after the accident, Luis reinvented himself by selling toys and candy at traffic lights in some of Quito’s busiest intersections.
“I saved every penny from those sales,” says Luis, “because I dreamed of opening a store.” It took him two years to save the $2,000 he needed to rent space and purchase merchandise, which he travelled by bus to Peru and Colombia to purchase.
But when Luis needed extra capital to increase his inventory and avoid the arduous and frequent trips to Colombia and Peru, bank after bank turned him down. “No one approved me for loans before because of my disability, but also because I didn’t have assets.”
Accion partner CREDIFE was different. They recognized Luis’s potential and offered him his first working capital loan. “It was such a joy that someone believed in me,” Luis says.
“Do you like your job?” we ask Luis. “Of course I do,” he says. “I’ve learned to love it. It’s what lifted me up and what’s made me a solvent person again. How could you not love it?”
When asked about what he sees in his future, Luis answers with a smile, “I have many dreams. Big dreams. I want to build myself a home and expand my business to be a wholesaler in Quito.” Given how far Luis has come, we're confident he’ll get there.