Raul started his El Paso, Texas-based body shop, A.R.C. Express Auto and Body Paint, because he wanted to provide reliable service to his community while providing secure employment to its hard-working members. Before opening his shop, Raul worked as the manager of the paint department at a large auto shop. However, after being forced to lay off many of the employees under his charge, Raul decided to go out on his own.
A.R.C. Express Auto opened in September 2010 and offers its customers any auto body service from dent repair to complete paint jobs. Raul used his 10 years of experience, including time working with the U.S. Army, to start the business. He hired and receives ongoing support from three of the employees laid off by his old employer, including an old manager who helps Raul estimate paint and labor costs.
Raul says his biggest success to date has been keeping the business open and successful while navigating a confusing city-permit process, which nearly led to the close of his shop. Of this, he says, “In order to keep your business legal, you need to get the right city permits. I would call in and get a different answer from each person regarding these permits. Ultimately, I had to pay someone to figure it out for me because I couldn’t start the shop and engage in that process at the same time.” Since he started the shop with his personal finances, he said that the strain caused by this added necessity nearly forced him to shut down the business.
However, his loan from Kiva partner ACCION Texas-Louisiana helped Raul overcome this difficulty. He used the loan to make payroll, pay for paint and supplies, and pay off a mortgage on some land, which has since been sold and the money brought back to his business. Without the loan, Raul says, “I would have had to shut down the shop. ACCION Texas helped me see the options available to me.”
In the future, Raul hopes to stay true to his community-oriented business policy. He says, “My goal is to hire some disabled veterans and people with disabilities and give back to the community. My goal is not to get rich; I want to give people a workplace where they come in, enjoy what they do, and go home happy.” He says that one day he hopes to open another establishment, such as a dance hall, that community organizations can use at an affordable price for recreational functions.
After nearly a year in business, Raul offers the following advice to aspiring business owners: “Make sure you do your homework, and, most importantly, make sure you engage with your customers and the people who affect your business face-to-face.” With this loan, Raul was able to overcome the initial challenges of opening his business. Now, he can continue to give members of his community a secure job that provides reliable, quality services to the residents of El Paso.
LiftFund. (www.liftfund.com) is an award-winning nonprofit organization (previously known as Accion Texas) with a mission to provide credit and loans to small and start-up businesses that have limited or no access to credit from commercial sources. Established in 1994 in San Antonio, LiftFund has helped Texas and Louisiana entrepreneurs strengthen their businesses, stabilize and increase their incomes, create employment, and contribute to the economic revitalization of their communities. Learn more at www.liftfund.com.