As the CEO of Accion Texas, Janie Barrera has plenty of lending success stories to tell. There’s the Colombian woman in Dallas who launched a translation business, and today counts the likes of 3M and Southwest Airlines as clients. Or the African-American man in Houston whose idea of leasing beds to nursing homes was met with skepticism by traditional banks and today is doing well. She also has some odd tales to share, including the one about the woman in southern Texas who pledged goats as collateral for a small loan to start a restaurant. “The next time I visited her, I asked to see the goats,” Barrera recalls. “She said, ‘What do you mean? We used them for lunch.’”
The underlying theme among Accion Texas’ clients is that they tend to be on the fringe of society, entrepreneurial people with poor credit scores or missing credit histories—many are recent immigrants—who bankers don’t want to touch. That’s fine by Barrera, whose nonprofit microfinance institution, or MFI, seeks them out, offering not only small-business loans but also credit and business-development counseling.