What’s Helping More Refugees Than Ever Build Businesses in Colorado?

In many states across the country, the economy is picking up after the long recession, making aspiring entrepreneurs eager to launch their small businesses. The only problem? Requirements for loans from traditional banks are still strict, leaving potential business owners, including many immigrants who may not have the credentials banks are looking for, with no capital to start their ventures.
In Colorado, the solution to this crunch has come through several microloan nonprofits that are able to lend smaller amounts than commercial banks do, and serve a wider variety of people, including refugees who want to open shops, home childcare businesses and restaurants.
Denver-based Somali refugee Abdullahi Shongolo was one beneficiary of these programs. Three years ago, a microloan enabled him to buy an international grocery store, leaving him with a rosy view of his adopted country. “If you try, this is America—you can,” Shongolo told Thad Moore of the Denver Post. “This is the country that went to the moon, man.”
According to Moore, microlending is booming in Colorado. Community Enterprise Development Services, a lender specializing in helping immigrants and refugees, increased the number of borrowers in the most recent fiscal year by 150 percent. None of the 51 loans the nonprofit has made since it opened in 2010 has defaulted.
“Refugees do not only bring a few bags of clothes and a few belongings,” Suleyman Abbgero, who used a microloan to open a coffee kiosk in an Aurora mall, told Moore. “They also bring a lot of ideas. If they are given the opportunity, they can do much more.”
MORE: From Field Hands to Farmers: This Program Helps Latino Immigrants Become Land Owners