Santiago is always moving forward. He grew up between the ocean and the Ecuadorean Andes in the city of Machala—a place affectionately referred to as The Banana Capital of the World. Santiago spent his youth changing jobs, always looking to better himself. This adventurous spirit led him to New York City 25 years ago.
Life in the Big Apple wasn’t everything he had anticipated. Santiago lived with his sister as he struggled to find work. His rudimentary English restricted his options. He felt stuck, but never lost his forward trajectory.
“I made friends with an electrician who taught me the trade,” reminisced Santiago. “I also taught myself plumbing, landscaping and sanitation.”
Santiago joined his friend in providing handyman services for residential buildings. Around this time, he also met Bethsy. They fell in love and got married. It seemed like Santiago was finally ready to lay down roots. But nostalgia tugged at Santiago in the midst of cold and busy New York City. He longed for the familiarity of Ecuador, but knew he wasn’t ready to move back. Santiago decided to make yet another move.
“I visited my sister who was studying in Miami. The weather and the culture reminded me of home. I really saw myself living there,” Santiago said.
This time, Santiago was more prepared. He used his wealth of skills to launch his own business—Maintenance Solutions. His business provides maintenance, janitorial, and renovation services to apartment complexes. People noticed his skills. His business grew through word of mouth to service more and more complexes. With the increased demand, Santiago needed to invest in hiring employees and equipment to serve more complexes. The catch? He needed money to do so. Though Santiago’s business was strong, he had a limited credit history.
“No one wanted to invest in this type of business,” he observed.
Santiago’s friend told him about Accion, where he worked with a loan officer to paint a full picture of his finances. Accion provided Santiago with the financing he needed to build his credit and invest in his business so he could meet the growing demand for his services.
Santiago has learned a lot of lessons over the years, and faces challenges with the same sense of adventure he displayed in his youth. And while he has settled his roots for the time being, he dreams of one day returning to Ecuador.
“I’ve learned so many skills in this country that I hope to one day share with people back home.”