Nuestra Comunidad: Local center gives small businesses a chance

Clara and César Holguín have been installing wood floors for high-profile clients for the last 15 years. Rapper Rick Ross, who bought Evander Holyfield’s home in Hapeville after it fell into foreclosure and designer Brooke Brantley Merrill, who owns a spacious Victorian property in Macon are among notables.

One of the couple’s goals is to have a showroom to give the public access to their work style and prices, as well as the added bonus of having a designated space to take measurements, prepare budgets, and hammer and install, among other tasks.

While trying to obtain a loan from conventional banks, however, the Holguins discovered how challenging it can be for small businesses to gain access to capital.

“When we went to Wells Fargo, where we have been clients for 10 years, we felt like it was impossible. We even thought about changing to a community bank because it seemed like in the big banks, small businesses don’t get a lot of benefits,” said Clara.

In late 2014, however, the couple heard about Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, whose purpose is to help business owners who may otherwise be denied a loan by larger financial institutions. There, the Holguins met María Peck, a native of Peru, who is on a mission to assist Latina entrepreneurs in Gwinnett County obtain funding from the Small Business Administration.

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Created in October 2014, Peck’s office is known as the ACE SBA Women’s Business Center. Since June of this year, it is located in a small space within the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center.

“Since we’ve been open we have served 350 clients. And even though our focus is on Latina women, our center is open to whomever needs our help,” said Peck, who pointed out that Gwinnett County is made up a diverse group of minorities.

ACE SBA Women’s Business Center does not just limit itself to analyzing its clients profiles and awarding credit. It provides training workshops for participants to gain skills such as how to write a business plan, as well as financial advice, such as protection against fraud.

The center recently was visited by Erin Andrew, assistant administrator of the SBA to find out about the challenges female business owners in Atlanta face.

“The center … is helping the community because it is bilingual, and it’s fundamental to the SBA to get closer to immigrant business owners. This office forms part of the 30 percent of SBA Women’s Business Centers that are exclusively dedicated to microloans, because these centers create a connection with minority business owners which recognizes their needs and provides good advice,” said Andrew.

Now the Holguins can accomplish their goal. On the eve of their company’s 15 year anniversary, the couple will finally be able to put up a sign on their new locale in Norcross.

CONTINUED COVERAGEEach Saturday look for a feature story from our media partners at Mundo Hispanico that highlights an aspect of the Hispanic community. For a closer look at its content, go to or contact editors and reporters directly at 404-881-0441.

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