Accion hires new development officer
EL CENTRO — Nonprofit microlender Accion recently announced the hiring of its new business development officer, Larisa Vega, who brings a wealth of financial sector experience and contacts within the business community to her new role.
Vega, of El Centro, has been at the helm of the San Diego-based nonprofit’s local office since July, and works one-on-one with would-be and existing business owners interested in applying for a loan, which range from $350 to $75,000.
Vega will also help manage local business development efforts, lead business-related workshops and build and strengthen partnerships to increase Accion’s impact in the region.
“We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with local financial institutions,” Vega said. “They actually send us quite a number of referrals.”
Prior to joining Accion, Vega had worked for four years with First Imperial Credit Union, managing the credit union’s satellite branch at Imperial Valley College, as well as working with FICU’s marketing and business development department.
Accion provides low-interest loans for smaller businesses that may not necessarily need a large amount of capital to launch or expand.
Since having expanded its services to the Valley in 2015, the nonprofit microlender has approved 56 loans to local entrepreneurs, averaging about $11,000 and totaling more than $650,000, said Valery Belloso, chief strategy officer.
“We’ve been really pleased with the activity that we’ve had in the Valley,” Belloso said.
Vega becomes the second individual to be named business development officer since Accion started offering its services locally.
Her hiring reflects the nonprofit’s desire to have its local office staffed by a local professional who understands the Valley and is a known “go-getter,” Belloso said.
“We’re very purposeful in finding a team member that really embodies the passion for helping others become financially sustainable and who believes in the power of small business,” she said.
Vega replaces Diana Moreno-Inman, who has since been named director of the Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center, an entity that has also worked closely with Accion since the latter’s arrival in the Valley.
Vega said she is also looking forward to expanding on outreach efforts in the community on Accion’s behalf, further bolstering its local ties.
Her commitment to community service is also made evident by her volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for neglected and abused children in the court system to help them find safe and permanent homes, an Accion press release stated.
“Larisa’s commitment to making an impact in her local community through compassion, financial literacy and connecting people with resources to meet their needs makes her a great addition to our team,” said Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Schott in a written statement.
Vega’s hiring also coincides with recent developments that aim to maximize the nonprofit’s efficiency, including recent investments in technology and additional staffing.
A $1 million grant that Accion was awarded in 2016 from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund is also expected to be deployed as loan capital in the four counties Accion services, which also include San Bernardino and Riverside counties, a press release stated.
Typical Accion loans help small storefront and service-based entrepreneurs increase their inventory, hire employees, purchase equipment and materials and pursue business growth opportunities. The nonprofit also helps its loan recipients build positive credit history and enhance their business skills through one-on-one technical assistance.
Gustavo Buenrostro, who recently opened his own comic book store, Collection Corner in Calexico, said he counts himself as one of Accion’s satisfied clients.
Before starting his own venture, Gustavo had been an employee at Toys “R” Us for 10 years, where he often helped customers look for rare and one-of-a-kind items that the big box company could not always provide, a press release stated.
Buenrostro’s growing collection of rare toys and comics ultimately provided him the opportunity of opening a specialty store where he could sell and display his extensive collection. His $10,000 loan from Accion went toward licensing and permitting fees, storefront improvements and a point-of-sale system, a press release stated.
“Without the funding from Accion, I wouldn’t have been able to open my storefront and bring a new offering to comic enthusiasts in Imperial Valley,” Buenrostro said.
Collection Corner is located at 2451 Rockwood Avenue in Calexico. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/CollectionCorner760/