This summer OFN interns had the opportunity to visit a local CDFI and OFN Member, FINANTA, to learn about the direct impact CDFIs have in the communities they serve. Throughout the visit, we learned about the products and services FINANTA offers to individuals and families facing socio-economic challenges. FINANTA provides business loans, mortgages to first-time homebuyers, and an incubator space. In addition to these critical capital products, I was most impressed by FINANTA’s unwavering dedication to providing education and technical assistance to each of their clients. Hiring staff bilingual in English and Spanish, FINANTA works to best serve the needs of their communities.
Melissa Taina Santiago, one of FINANTA’s Loan Servicing Officers, displayed her passion for assisting clients. She described how about 70 percent of the cost of a loan for FINANTA is the technical assistance associated with the loan. Comparing the loan services to case management, Santiago helps clients with whatever challenges may prevent their financial self-sufficiency. Helping clients to attain medical and business insurance, to complete food stamp machine applications, to gain bookkeeping skills, and to prevent foreclosure, eviction, and car repossession, FINANTA works tirelessly to break down clients’ obstacles.
My fellow interns and I were also interested to learn about how FINANTA facilitates working relationships among businesses. Through their “PRECAPS” program, FINANTA provides capital for groups of entrepreneurs with similar financing needs. As the businesses repay their loans, they are able to build their credit rating and learn from one another. Considering this model of loan servicing, we were struck by the impact of culture on capital. We discussed with one another how people often place their trust in banks when looking for capital, when there are other ways to structure lending. Through the innovative use of capital, and FINANTA’s facilitation, budding businesses can access the capital they need while also finding ways to develop credit together.
While learning about FINANTA’s impact on communities today, we also got a peek into how the organization has grown. Founder Luis Mora described how he ran FINANTA alone for the first year, and then operated with a partner for a couple of years before FINANTA began to more steadily grow to its 17 employees today. I was inspired by Mora’s long-term vision, dedication, and passion to transform an idea into widespread action and impact. This year FINANTA celebrates 20 years of entrepreneurial expansion, affordable homeownership and community development. As OFN interns, we were thankful for the opportunity to learn about the remarkable work of an incredible OFN CDFI Member.