Willis is a veteran electrician, having worked in this trade for the past forty years. He remembers one of his first projects as an electrician: on stage for jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. "He was using a lot of synthesizers and microphones, so it wasn't an easy job." Willis keeps a photo of Mr. Hancock hanging in his office in Oakland, California.
In 2007, after working as a union electrician with large companies for 34 years, Willis decided to open his own business: Special Electric Construction. He wanted the freedom to take on the projects he is most passionate about: industrial and public works, such as bridges, schools and public buildings. He also wanted to have more control over the decisions that are made around purchasing and managing project budgets. "I've seen so much waste in 34 years," he said.
As the son of a general contractor, Willis is proud to own a professional electrician business. “There are very few ‘mom-and-pop’ shops left,” he says, “because of the competition from larger players.” As a minority-owned business and a certified Small and Local Business, Willis's shop fulfills an important niche in the Bay Area.
Willis’s biggest challenge so far has been finding a line of credit to support the upfront costs of larger projects. He sought a small business loan from his bank but, despite being a home-owner and successful businessman, he couldn’t qualify for a loan because he had never borrowed on credit cards and usually avoids taking on debt. When he saw Opportunity Fund’s small business loan program featured on the local news, he decided to apply.
With a $5,000 loan, his first from Opportunity Fund, Willis will purchase and install exhaust fans in a building he is working on in Oakland. The loan will act as the line of credit he needs to purchase these costly items before his clients pay him for the job. In addition, this loan will ensure that he is able to start establishing a credit history for his business.
Kiva realizes that access to credit is a challenge for entrepreneurs everywhere. Kiva started out as a website focused on developing-world entrepreneurs. In June 2009, Kiva began experimenting with allowing entrepreneurs in the United States to raise money on its website. If this is something you support, please feel free to fund this loan. If you have questions, including how an entrepreneur in your neighborhood might get a loan, please visit our Help Center and click on "Loans in the United States."