Muskegon-based mall business development organization Northern Initiatives is leading strong in its efforts to uplift West Michigan’s Latino business community. Besides continuing its work in providing capital to those who may not qualify for a small business loan from traditional banks, the organization has doubled down on its efforts by hiring a bilingual commercial lender and opening a web portal that is 100% in Spanish.
Business Services Director Israel Flores said he takes pride in Northern Initiatives’ ability to quickly react to ensure its clients have resources to weather emergency situations.
“When COVID hit, we reached out to all of our customers, and we were providing also small fast-track loans, because they need them, and we also had the ability to get PPP loan money that we will be able to provide to our customers,” he said.
“We truly care about our customers, and we want to make sure that they are successful, because in reality if they are successful, we also get our money back so we can lend it to somebody else. We want to make sure they are successful, and that’s why we provide all of those types of services.”
Norma Jazwinski, commercial lender at Northern Initiatives, said she was interested in working for the organization when it opened a position for a bilingual services provider. Originally from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Jazwinski said she always wanted to be involved in helping minority-owned businesses.
“I was involved somehow in different occasions of bilingual teaching here and there, but it was nothing formal, so when I saw the position I was going to be oriented for in the Latino community, I said I want to do that,” she said. “It was amazing they gave me the opportunity for me, with no experience, and they were willing to teach me.”
Northern Initiatives supports people and businesses with access to capital, even if they have bad credit. Jazwinski said everybody deserves an opportunity regardless of their life circumstances.
“I see a lot of people having problems with regular institutions, so I feel like people have to consider Northern Initiatives for the option of a small business loan, because we give better treatment than a regular institution,” she said.
Flores added Northern Initiatives now has a web portal in Spanish, which for him is a big deal because of the work required to make it a reality.
“We put a lot of time and money in to make a whole portal in Spanish,” he said. “I guess some people, some of us would do it, but it just takes a lot of money and time.
“This organization, when we started talking about the Latino community, we were just like, let’s do this. Lets work to make sure it’s accessible for the Latino community and lead strong with it.”
Click para leerlo en Español: Northern Initiatives va más allá del dinero y el conocimiento para los dueños de negocios latinos