PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, REFRESH FINANCIAL INC.
M ichael Wendland learned firsthand the value of a good credit score when he was denied a mortgage in 2010. His credit report revealed he had a small outstanding debt–the annual fee for a credit card he stopped using and thought was deactivated. “I was surprised,” Wendland says. “It was extra humbling for me because at the time I was a mortgage broker.” The ironic turn propelled him to start a business to help others get their credit on track.
Wendland borrowed an idea from U.S. credit unions that had yet to make a mark in Canada: providing credit-builder loans to people with bad credit. His company, Kelowna-based Refresh Financial, extends credit when nobody else will. Clients don't receive the money they're ostensibly borrowing up front, though. Instead, their loan payments go into a savings fund they unlock when the loan term ends–usually after three years. It's essentially a layaway plan for a loan. Refresh, which employs more than 80 people, has helped some 40,000 clients since it launched in 2013.