Alfredo is the owner of El Sereno Shoe Repair, a small business that has been family owned and operated in East LA for over 30 years and two generations.  He’s a hardworking, old-fashioned shoe cobbler that’s dedicated to serving his community with exceptional quality and customer service.
Eighteen years ago, 11-year-old Ezequiel Olvera approached Alfredo with an ask.  Ezequiel explained that he had invested in an old 10-cent gumball machine with the hope of making enough money to attend college.  He asked Alfredo if he’d be willing to place the gumball machine in his shop.  Alfredo agreed, but only on the condition that Ezequiel maintain good grades.  Alfredo became a role model to Ezequiel, teaching him valuable lessons about business, accountability, and the value of an education.

El Sereno Shoe Repair: Family Owned & Operated in East LA for 30 Years (Left: Alfredo, Right: Alfredo, his family, and father)

Armed with an entrepreneurial spirit and profits from Alfredo’s store, Ezequiel was able to purchase an additional machine.  Through hard work and unwavering dedication, his venture soon grew to over 50 gumball and vending machines across East Los Angeles, which he operated out of local businesses throughout the neighborhood.
The fruits of his labor included valuable business experience, lessons, and many ups and downs.  Ezequiel learned the importance of understanding market demand by selling products based on customer demographics by site.  For example, he quickly realized that pistachios sold better at the local auto parts store in comparison to candy.  He perfected his sales pitch and learned to deal with rejection when business owners were opposed to housing his machines.  He was forced to stay organized, keep his inventory stocked, collect money on a regular basis, fix broken machines, etc., etc., etc.
When Ezequiel graduated high school, he had saved profits of $15,000 from his business, and was able to obtain an academic scholarship to fund the remainder of his college tuition at UC Santa Cruz.
Today, Ezequiel aims to empower future generations with the ability to follow a path similar to his own.  He created the Gumball Foundation, which engages middle and high school students in an extracurricular program that teaches creativity, entrepreneurship and social business acumen.  Through the program, students run their own small-scale vending machine business as an educational tool, which gives them valuable hands-on experience, incentivizes them to attend college, and awards them with scholarships.

Gumball Foundation Awards Night: Over 50 College Scholarships Have Been Provided To Date

(Left) Gumball Foundation student stocking his machine / (Right) Ezequiel & his original gumball machine

The Gumball Foundation has become one of LA’s most innovative new social ventures, and has recently received a variety of well-deserved recognition.  They won the Annenberg Foundation Audience Award in 2011 at the LASVP Fast Pitch Competition.  The Los Angeles Business Journal named them Social Enterprise of the Year for 2012.  In 2013 they received an LA Emmy nomination and Ezequiel was recognized as an “Unsung Hero of Los Angeles” by the California Community Foundation and the Eisner Foundation.  Alfredo’s pivotal role in the Gumball Foundation’s early origins was recently highlighted in a story covered by NBC and another by LatiNation. 

I first came into contact with the Gumball Foundation while working to grow the reach of Kiva Zip in Los Angeles.  I was primarily focused on finding new partner organizations referred to as Trustees, who are empowered with helping entrepreneurs access Kiva Zip loans by publicly vouching for their business concept and character.  In response to the reality that thousands of small business loan applications are denied by banks on a daily basis, the Kiva Zip model aims to leverage community relationships in order to identify trustworthy, hardworking, financially excluded entrepreneurs who have the ability to use loan capital to sustainably grow their business.

Despite the fact that Ezequiel’s work is focused on students, Kiva Zip presented an opportunity for him to support local businesses in his community, many of whom were instrumental to his success by graciously housing his gumball machines as a kid.
It’s no surprise that the first business Ezequiel chose to endorse for a Kiva Zip loan was Alfredo’s El Sereno Shoe Repair
Due to an absence of sufficient capital, Alfredo has struggled to grow revenue on a yearly basis.  Ezequiel is endorsing Alfredo for a $5,000 loan, which will enable him to do the following:

  • Purchase raw materials to create an additional revenue stream through sales of hand-made leather goods
  • Acquire updated machinery to become more efficient
  • Add aesthetically pleasing entrance displays and shoe casings to attract new customers
  • Take advantage of discounts on essential supplies by paying in advance  
Because of Alfredo’s helping hand, Ezequiel was able to gain momentum in his childhood venture, attend college, and start the Gumball Foundation, which has already provided over 50 students with college scholarships.

Things have truly come full circle, as Ezequiel now looks to support Alfredo by helping him access much needed loan capital through Kiva Zip.

Kiva Zip loans are given at 0% interest and crowdfunded online in $25 increments, which means anyone with an Internet connection can lend to borrowers like Alfredo. 
Interested in lending to Alfredo?  He needs your help! You can lend as little as $25 towards his loan by following this link to his Kiva Zip profile:

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