Ottavio is an artist. He worked many years as a mason contractor perfecting his eye for detail. Fourteen years ago, Ottavio decided to take his passion for art and open up his own business. Ottavio started Accurate Graphics, a company specializing in corporate and custom signage.

kiva pic

Ottavio employs nine people.

Year after year, Ottavio built a steady clientele with his exceptional customer service. He focused on quick turn-around and innovative designs. The contracts he received grew larger and larger. Ottavio will never forget the day he laid the finish line for the Boston Marathon.

Ottavio Bolognese_Finish Line

Ottavio’s team made  the Boston Marathon finish line.

As his business grew, Ottavio put together a skillful team of designers, technicians, retail and sales experts. Yet, keeping up with Accurate Graphic’s growth has not always been easy. During the recession, Ottavio struggled to access funds to keep the business open. He poured most of his savings into the business, which hurt him financially.

Through his perseverance, Ottavio’s business survived the recession. Always looking to the future, Ottavio approached a TD Bank representative  for advice on financing his business.

“I needed to build my credit back to where it was,” explained Ottavio.

After listening to Ottavio, the representative recognized that Accion’s loan programs would suit Ottavio’s situation. Kara referred Ottavio to Accion, where he worked with an Accion Loan Consultant. Ottavio received a small loan from Accion which will strengthen his finances to ensure that Accurate Graphics continues to grow.

Today, Accurate Graphics employs nine individuals, including one of Ottavio’s grandsons. “My vision for the future is to give my grandson a legacy and ensure that my employees continue to have jobs with the family.”

The Color of Joy

When Veronica Watts was 13, she painted her mom’s bedroom and knew that she had found her calling. She had dabbled with painting under the instruction of her grandfather for a few years, but the joy she brought to her mom with a fresh coat of paint that day was a game changer. It had seemed a simple act going into it, but seeing the impact it made on her mother made her want to do more. “I was really encouraged by my mother. She was a really big motivator in my life.”

Over the years, Veronica worked with different contractors and family members to develop her skills. Painting had become her passion. It had become her life. It was her creative outlet and a way for her to bring joy to others. Eventually, she decided to open her own business; painting would now also be how she provided for herself and her family.


Veronica hard at work

However, it was far from easy getting to where she is now. Being a woman in a mostly male-dominated field was difficult. “At the beginning it was hard because I felt like I always had something to prove, but you keep working and eventually they can’t say anything about it.” Veronica brought her incredible work ethic to each job, and remained committed to just being herself. “You have to be serious about your brand. When you are, you’ll do well.”

Veronica sees the good and potential in everyone. In 2011, she established Operation Brush Up – a training program that sought out troubled youths and adults and taught them her craft. Through the program, she hoped to share some of what her mom gave her: good work ethics, self-confidence and positive energy. She fondly talked about this program and its impact on others, saying that “there are a lot of people with potential who just need a chance.” This wonderful optimism is reflected in their slogan: Let’s pick up a paint brush and brush up our lives!

Veronica mixes plaster before beginning to paint.

Veronica mixes plaster before beginning to paint.

Her life and career have always been about helping others. After establishing her business, she knew she wanted the best care possible for her family and employees. She wanted to provide them with access to health insurance. She needed to invest in her company in order to do that; she needed to grow. She knew she would need a loan to invest in her business, but didn’t have the credit to go to the traditional route.

Veronica reached out to an organization to help her develop her credit, who in turn directed her to Accion for a loan request. With her loan from Accion, Veronica has not only been able to grow her business, she also improved her own financial position and helped her employees get one step closer to improving theirs—by starting the process of enrolling them in a company healthcare plan.

“God gives everyone talents. We must use them until the wheels fall off or we will fall off.”

Shop Small on Small Business Saturday

Happy Small Business Saturday! Treat yourself to local goodies and find unique gifts for your loved ones on this Small Business Saturday. Now in its fourth year, Small Business Saturday was created to support  local businesses across the nation  It is a  meaningful way to connect with your community, create jobs and keep the local economy vibrant! Here are 5 Accion clients that you can shop small from:

Beehive Oven, NY

Beehive Oven:

Run by Texans in NY, Beehive Oven makes biscuits the old-fashioned way, with care and quality ingredients.  They make biscuits in a variety of flavors from savory to sweet, and are always developing new creative recipes that respect the heritage of the humble biscuit. Order biscuits for your holiday dinners online now:


Traditional Mexican hot chocolate has an intense cocoa flavor and slightly granular texture, the result of the artisan chocolate-making process. Experience what it’s like to make “chocolate de mesa” the way it’s done “en Mexico” with an HERNÁN Mexican Hot Chocolate Gift Set! Perfect for the coming cold winter nights. Available now at Food52.

Marilyn Tov, NY

This unique line of children’s clothing captures the memories of Marilyn Tov’s magical childhood in Paris and brings them to life in a graceful, and remarkably wearable, collection. Based in New York and made in the US, Marilyn Tov now has a new line: women’s clothing! Moms always wished their children’s outfits also came in adult sizes, and Marilyn Tov has made this wish come true!..

Felicity Sweets, MA

Felicity Sweets:

Felicity Sweets is a neighborhood gem featuring a little something for everyone. More than just candy, they are a complete gift boutique store providing those “hard-to-finds” for that special occasion. From Lake Champlain chocolates to beautiful jewelry, owner Sarah Horton wants to share her favorite things with Boston’s South End.

Carmen and Lola, FL

Carmen and Lola was named after two grandmothers with a passion for gourmet Spanish food.  iThis business was created not only with the goal of exporting the traditional flavors of Spain, but also to elevate Spanish cuisine to the international level of prestige it deserves. . Check out the company’s social media page,  to learn how to make the perfect paella and tempting tapas. Shop now to win a gift basket!

Looking for more businesses to shop small from? Check out our marketplace.


Introducing the MicroConsulting Program Participants!

Microconsulting  Microsonculting1

Join us at our annual Harvest Festival on November 20th to support our new MicroConsulting Program! We will feature 11 small business owners that have been consulted by highly-skilled young professional volunteers. Over the past 7 weeks, the volunteers have worked with the small businesses to accomplish projects that will lead to business growth.

Click here to get your tickets!

At the Harvest Festival, you’ll learn more about how Accion’s volunteers helped these business owners overcome their business challenges:

We’re excited to introduce this year’s participants:

Plaques by Azra – Azra Khalfan

Plaques by Azra specializes in the award and recognition industry, providing awards and services to corporate business, organizations, clubs, sport teams, leagues, religious centers and individual customers.

Challenge: Website Development and Optimization

Joa Swim LLC – Julie Joa

Using only the best imported fabrics from around the world, Julie’s company features swimwear with the American woman’s body in mind. Using only the best imported fabrics from around the world, Julie proudly manufactures her swimwear domestically.

Challenge: Branding and Website Development

Marilyn Tov – Marilyn Tov

This unique line of children’s clothing captures the memories of Marilyn Tov’s magical childhood in Paris and brings them to life in a graceful, and remarkably wearable, collection. With comfortable fabrics like double-knit cotton, touch-ably soft wool, and smooth silk lining, these clothes are made to be moved in, played in, and loved. In addition to the children’s line, Marilyn has recently added a women’s line.

Challenge: Online Sales

TM Baseball Academy – Yesenia Rodriguez

TM Baseball Academy trains and mentors hundreds of athletes. The academy teaches players of all ages and instills in them the confidence they need to succeed both on and off the field. TM Baseball Academy has helped many young athletes achieve their dreams by assisting them from High School to College. Some of the young men who have been drafted including Johnny Monell (S.F. Giants), Melvin Garcia (Toronto Blue Jays), Alibay Barkly (Angels) just to name a few.

Challenge: Financial Management

Puzzles for Us – Kevin Dunn

Puzzles for Us is an award-winning cultural education series that spotlights the rich historical legacy and ongoing contributions of people of color to the global community. The company specializes in the creation of exciting activity books, puzzle books, custom puzzles, workshops and other products that highlight these contributions in a colorful, engaging manner. Schools and organizations across the United States use Kevin’s cultural literacy resources.

Challenge: Marketing and Financial Management

Salty Road – Marisa Wu

Marisa started her salt-water taffy company, Salty Road, in the hot summer of 2011. Marisa’s taffy is unlike any other —- creamy like a milkshake with a distinct salt crystal crunch. Each batch is made by hand in Brooklyn.

Challenge: Sales strategy

Brewla Bars – Daniel and Rebecca Dengrove

Daniel and Rebecca Dengrove are a brother and sister team with over 15 years of experience in food science and technology. They created Brewla Bars, all natural popsicles with craft-brewed ingredients to utilize their skills in product development while filling creating a completely new kind of frozen treat. Rebecca rented space in the industrial kitchen at her old graduate school, decorated a rolling freezer, and Brewla Bars began.

Challenge: Financial management

Tiny Kitchen Brands LLC – Philip David Crouse

Tiny Kitchen Brands LLC produces and sells naturally crafted beverages. The company offers a range of flavored drinks made of natural ingredients and sweetened with organic cane sugar. It serves customers through dispensers at fast casual establishments and restaurants. The company was founded in 2011 and is based in New York.

Challenge: Sales Strategy

French’Encas – Simon Herfray

French’Encas is a French culinary company that provides professional culinary classes and also produces high quality pastries for catering and wholesale purposes. Chef Simon Herfray incorporated his business in November of 2013 after realizing there was an existing demand from shops, caterers, wedding halls, etc. who were looking for specialty desserts.

Challenge: Online Marketing and Business Plan Creation

Quasar Fashion Inc. – Maria Mejia

Quasar Fashion Inc is a company that specializes in handbag manufacturing. They make sample patterns, prototypes, small leather products and baby shoes.

Challenge: Online Sales

Giving the Gift of Gymnastics

Business, gymnastics, and psychology – these may seem an unusual combination of interests. For Lauren, they are her three passions in life. They are also the inspirations behind LEAP South Florida.


Lauren has been a gymnast and coach for over 15 years. Her work is rigorous and unique. She works with special needs clients, providing them the opportunity to build athletic skills.
Lauren started her own business, LEAP South Florida. LEAP uses a comprehensive approach to athletics combining behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Her clients, mostly children, enjoy both one-on-one sessions as well as group training. Lauren tailors her approach to a wide spectrum of clients – including those with Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism and Down syndrome.

Lauren has developed an athletic training program to increase her clients’ balance, flexibility, motor skills – and most importantly – their self-confidence. “They learn to focus, to improve their critical thinking, and better handle their emotions. Things that are at the core group sports,” explained Lauren.


Lauren rents out space at a local gym for group trainings. The number of clients she services has increased, but so has her demand for space. Lauren approached a business banker at Bank of America to request a loan to buy advanced equipment. Her banker recognized her as a perfect fit for Accion and put her in touch with an Accion Loan Consultant. After working with her Loan Consultant on an application for financing, Lauren received a $9,500 loan from Accion.

Thanks to Bank of America and Accion, Lauren will be able to invest in better equipment and continue making a difference in the lives of the clients she works with.

IMG_0345 copy

Orquidea’s Beauty Salon in Crown Heights Celebrates Second Year

A local entrepreneur celebrates a second year of success, and inspires new business opportunities in her neighborhood with the help of a microloan from Accion.

When Rosaura opened her salon in Crown Heights, it was the only business on the block. She took a chance, but was confident that her 20 years of experience styling hair in the Dominican Republic and Brooklyn would draw customers to her store. And with four children to support, she was determined to make her business a success. It wasn’t easy, “I knew how I wanted to treat my customers but I needed to learn how to run my business.”

It was her empathy to her customers that ultimately led to a thriving business. She created a private room in the back of her salon where she will cater to Muslim women who, for religious reasons, cannot have their hair seen in public. The word quickly through out the Muslim community and she received an influx of clients.

Rosaura’s new business was growing quickly and she needed financing to purchase more products. Given her limited credit experience and small loan request, Rosaura could not qualify for financing from her local bank. She was referred to Accion, and following a careful assessment with a loan consultant was provided with options that suited her.   Ultimately, Rosaura received a $1,600 microloan to purchase more product inventory and establish credit. Rosaura also received critical counseling from her loan consultant to put her on the path to developing her credit, documenting her financials, and managing her cash flow.

Her business success has fostered economic growth in her neighborhood. She provides good-paying jobs to four women. And it doesn’t stop there. Seeing the success of Rosaura’s salon, several other businesses have opened on her block. Rosaura has played a key role in the revitalization of her neighborhood and it’s been recognized by the City.  Last year, on her salon’s first year anniversary, the City presented Rosaura an award thanking her for creating employment opportunities for women. “I love serving my community. I wish I could do more.”

For this year’s upcoming second-year anniversary, Rosaura will be celebrating in style. On Saturday October 4th, Orquidea’s Beauty Salon will welcome customers with a Dominican buffet, hair product sample giveaways, and 20 percent off all services throughout the day.


Help Build Brewla Into a National Brand with the Martha Stewart American Made Awards

Guest blog by Daniel Dengrove, co-owner of Brewla Bars. As seen on AccionUSNetwork

Daniel and Rebecca were the Grand prize winners of the 2013 Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition.

Daniel and Rebecca were the Grand prize winners of the 2013 Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition.

My sister Rebecca knows everything there is about winning and losing.

Since the age of three, and all the way through college, she was a competitive gymnast. She learned firsthand how to bounce back from losses and injury. She taught me how to be resilient in the face of challenge and use triumph and failure as learning opportunities.

Now, years later, our small business is a finalist for the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made AwardsPublic online voting starts today, and we need your help to win!

In 2010, we started Brewla to prove that great tasting desserts can also be healthy. Brewla Bars are all-natural ice pops based on brewed ingredients. Each flavor is bold and sophisticated, with a smooth, indulgent texture – and only 50 calories or less per bar.

We spent two years collecting feedback at farmers markets and events in New York City to perfect our flavors. With the help of Accion and the Samuel Adams’ Brewing the American Dream program, we strengthened our business pitch. All that hard work paid off when we heard the news about being named an American Made finalist.

We’ve always dreamed that Brewla would be a national brand. Ultimately, people have to know and love the brand, and every small business owner knows the considerable time and energy it takes to get there. Winning American Made would make it that much easier to reach people and introduce them to our delicious and healthy desserts.

If we don’t win, we’ll chalk it up as another learning opportunity. Being a finalist is tremendous validation that we have a great, high quality product. We’ll continue doing the hard work necessary to build Brewla and learn from this experience to get there faster.

So between today and October 13th, help us secure as many votes online as possible so we can bring Brewla Bars to you and your friends. You don’t have to ask your grocer, you just have to click the link here and vote!

10 ways to stay cool this summer (and support an Accion client)

  1. Treat yourself to an ice cream sandwich from Bocaditos de Helado, based out of Miami, FL.

    Bocaditos de Helado are sandwiched between two pieces of homemade yellow cake.

  2. Indulge in a rich bowl of Luca & Bosco Ice Cream, based out of New York, NY.

    Luca & Bosco – (c) Catherine Oddenino

  3. Slurp down a slushie from Kelvin Natural Slush, based out of New York, NY.

    Kelvin Natural Slush

  4. Enjoy a frosty dessert from Helados Donofrio, based out of Miami, FL.
  5. Reminisce about childhood summers with an ice pop from Brewla Bars, based out of New York, NY.

    Brewla Bars

  6. Sip on an bubble tea from Tea Chai Tea, based out of Portland, OR.

    Bubble tea from Tea Chai Te

  7. Drink a Juice, based out of Hawthorne, CA.

    Drink A Juice

  8. Stay fit with Joos, based out of Newton, MA.


  9. Taste the richness of summer with a fresh squeezed juice from Juice Runners, based out of Sonoma County, CA.

    Juice Runners

  10. Join the Kombucha craze with a drink from Kombucha Brooklyn, based in Brooklyn, NY.

    Tart Cherry from Kombucha Brooklyn

Harnessing the skills of young professionals to help business owners

By Fan Liu

Small business owners wear multiple hats —they are experts in their trades, managers, advertisers, legal navigators and accountants, and often times mothers and fathers. In between these thousands of tasks they have to do, they have to also come up with a strategy to grow. That’s why Accion East launched its first-ever MicroConsulting Program.

Accion Microfinance Council Leaders

The leaders of the Accion Microfinance Council

Accion East and its Microfinance Council, a volunteer network that advocates for Accion East, matched volunteers with Accion East-supported business owners based on their needs. The volunteers focused on one achievable project that would lead to growth.  With two volunteers per business owner, they worked over a seven week period to provide the business owner with a deliverable.

At the end of the seven weeks, the Microfinance Council and Accion East’s staff, board members and supporters celebrated the accomplishments of the program participants at the PIMCO office.

As I arrived to PIMCO, each business owner had a table showcasing their business. I tried a cupcake from Kicky’s Kitchen, a samosa from Masala Wala and tried on lotion from House D’Marsh. Also on display were beautiful hand-made leather journals and bags from NadiraBag, bangles and earrings from Crusoe Jewelry and cookie cakes from Fatty Cakes. Then, the volunteer-client pairs gave short presentations on what they achieved together. The high-impact projects and volunteers included:

  • Christie MacKinnon, owner of Kicky’s Kitchen – a boozy cupcake catering

    Kicky's Kitchen cupcakes

    Boozy cupcakes from Kicky’s Kitchen.

  • Problem: Christie was ready to expand her business from catering to retail. But she didn’t know who would sell her boozy cupcakes or cupcake kits.
  • Solution: Her volunteers researched online and retail distributors that would best fit her brand and products. They proposed a plan to distribute her cupcakes through Etsy and Whole Foods.
  • Volunteers: Nanette – Senior Consultant, Ernst & Young; Suhail – Associate, Grant Thornton
  • Roni Mazumdar, owner of Masala Wala, a local Indian restaurant in the Lower East Side.

    Samosas The Masala Wala

    Samosas from The Masala Wala

  • Problem: Roni’s financing system was a shoebox filled with receipts. It literally kept Roni up at night.
  • Solution: The volunteers transferred all finances since inception of the restaurant to QuickBooks. They sifted through receipts, created a chart of accounts and trained staff on how to use the software. Now Roni can sleep a little bit better.
  • Volunteers: Chloe – Healthcare Research Analyst, JP Morgan Chase; Susie – Global TMT Coverage & Advisory, Deutsche Bank
  • Glenroy March, owner of House of D’Marsh, a fashion company that boasts two couture collections and stylist and runway services.

    House of D'Marsh

    Volunteers wear clothing designed by Glenroy.

  • Problem: With his business rapidly growing, Glenroy needed management skills to lead an effective team.
  • Solution: The volunteers created structure for Glenroy’s employees by revising job descriptions and creating an employee manual. They also implemented a system to track employee performance.
  • Volunteers:Linda – Menswear Planning, Macy’s; Ruchika – Senior Business Analyst, CHANEL
  •  Nadira El Khang, owner Nadira Bag, a handmade leather goods retailer. (For Nadira’s business story, please read my previous blog “Make Your Dream Come True”)
  • Problem: Nadira wasn’t sure where to begin. She was growing quickly but lacked infrastructure. She needed a website, studio space and a system for tracking her business finances.
  • Solution: Nadira had found a company to create her website, but the volunteers had identified a website developer that would save her hundreds of dollars each month. The volunteers also found affordable studio space and transferred her finances to Quick Books.
  • Volunteers:David – Attorney, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman;Tina – Associate, Grant Thornton
  • Fattycakes NYC

    #AccionEast cake from FattyCakes

    Jennifer Taylor-Miller, owner of Fatty Cakes, a cookie company specializing in the craziest concoctions you’ve ever tasted.

  • Problem: Jennifer wanted to utilize her social media channels to engage her fans.
  • Solution: The volunteers created a “three-pronged approach”. They formulated a plan to increase followers on all social media channels. They implemented #fattyfridays, a raffle for a free cookie cake and re-envisioned the focus of her blog.
  • Volunteers: Nameeta – Marketing Consultant; Alyssah – Mutual Funds Internal Wholesaler
  • Maya Ahluwalia, owner of Crusoe Jewelry, a maritime-inspired jewelry company.
  • Problem: Maya was on Quick Books, but didn’t know how to use it to create a strategy for growing her business.
  • Solution: The volunteers created a financial model for Maya’s business and taught her how to fully utilize Quick Books to understand her business, like creating a profit and loss statement.
  • Volunteers: Rhema – Director, Corporate Banking, CIBC; Ross –Associate, Futures & OTC Clearing, Bank of America

View more pictures from the celebration event. For more information on the Accion Microfinance Council, follow them on Facebook. Support Accion East by donating at

Finding A Different Angle

Robert, photographer and author of The New Yorkers

City life can be stressful. It is full of people, distractions and pollution. An ambitious newcomer to New York City, Robert was determined to focus on the positive. He started taking pictures around the city as a way to relax and unwind. Almost three decades later, he had compiled images of dancing children, iconic subway cars, beautiful faces and proud buildings, capturing the bold grace and uncanny charm of his city.

Robert decided to share his perspective by publishing his collection of photos. However, publishing a book as an unknown author proved to be exceedingly expensive. He managed to source together enough capital to print eleven hundred copies. The copies sold like wildfire and received rave reviews with critics lauding Robert for his “real” rendition of New York. Robert was ready to sell more. There was just one problem – he needed the capital to do so. With a loan from Accion, Robert was able to do a second print of his critically acclaimed book.TheNewYorkers

You can order a signed copy of his book on his website, He will be presenting a free lecture on his book on June 26th at 7pm, at SVA, 136 West 21st Street, Room 418-F, New York, NY.