American Dreamers

These six entrepreneurs are members of a unique Dallas program that is bringing the promise of microcredit to the United States: one small business at a time.

The PLAN Fund is a Dallas nonprofit that offers classes and makes small loans to people trying to start businesses without much experience. The key word is “small.” The theory behind the PLAN Fund is known as microcredit, the idea that small loans can empower poor people to become entrepreneurs. This idea won economics professor Muhammad Yunus the Nobel Peace Prize last year for work he has done in his native Bangladesh, where his Grameen Bank has loaned billions of dollars and pulled millions of people from poverty. The PLAN Fund takes a similar approach in Dallas, though on a much smaller and more rigorous scale. Potential borrowers must take two and a half months of classes, then they can apply for the first level of loans ($500–$1,500). Since its inception, in 1998, the PLAN Fund has loaned 461 people a total of $674,984. Some of its members and graduates are pictured here.

Rhonda Hodge makes and sells soap from her home in Murphy for her company Diva SpaWorks ( divaspaworks.com). She also sells lotions and other skin-care products. She has been a member of the PLAN Fund since 2004. (214-534-9384)

Harold Washington moved to Dallas from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He repairs and sells computers as King Harold Computer World ( KingHaroldComputerWorld.com). He’s been a PLAN Fund member since May of this year. (214-870-7835)

Sam Hills (class of 2003) is the PLAN Fund’s most successful graduate. He sells medical equipment as S&A Oxygen Express, has five employees, and made $500,000 last year. (469-964-9335)

Julieta Hernandez travels door-to-door in Dallas and Fort Worth selling comforters, clothes, and boots. Her company is called Galería Internacional. A member since 2003, she dreams of one day owning her own store. (214-675-9275)

Catherine Johnson runs Son Shine Products from her South Oak Cliff home. She creates custom candles and also makes shower gels, lotions, hair cream, and shea butter. She has been a member of the PLAN Fund since 2000. (214-668-0596)

Veronica Rivera, a member since 2000, owns JBS Cleaning Services ( janitorialbuildingservices.com), which cleans businesses and homes in Dallas. She employs ten people and is on track to earn $100,000 this year. (469-853-7693)

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