JFCS Center for Enterprise Development Provides Muslim Loan for Local Micro-Businesses

Today’s blog written by Gary Liebert, MicroBusiness Specialist

Ali Suleiman, a refugee entrepreneur from Sudan, recently received a Muslim loan from Jewish Family and Career Services (JFCS) Center for Enterprise Development (CED).  This was the first Muslim loan given by JFCS. Although the JFCS direct lending program was initially designed to include a Muslim loan product, we had not received any such requests until this year, and Ali was the first to ask for a Muslim loan.

Ali Suleiman has been running an urban, “hip-hop” clothing store on Dixie Highway in Louisville for about a year, and sought capital to expand and market his business. Typical of CED refugee clients, Ali heard about our loan and training program through talking to another refugee client of JFCS. Seeking to expand his business, he enrolled in the CED’s program, and joined Gary Liebert’s business training class on a short-term basis. Less than two months later, Ali had completed his business and financial plan. He then requested and received a Muslim “Murabaha” loan, a buy-sell agreement that includes regular payments towards the loan principal as well as towards a small profit for the lender, as agreed upon by both the borrower and the lender.

Seeing a demand for the Muslim loan product, CED staff members plan to expand marketing efforts, targeting Sudanese, Somali, Iraqi and West African refugee clients who observe the Muslim prohibition against interest. There are already a few new clients in the “pipeline” for Muslim loans.

Newcomers to the United States often start out in low-paying jobs with limited chances for advancement.  But many refugees and immigrants with entrepreneurial skills and business experience increase family income and build financial security by starting small businesses known as micro-businesses.  Based on the philosophy that asset-building provides refugee families and individuals with tools to help move them out of poverty, the JFCS Center for Enterprise Development offers training and individualized assistance to help a small business start, grow and operate successfully.  Profits from a microenterprise can supplement, and sometimes even supplant, the limited income a typical refugee receives by working in entry-level jobs.

CED staff members Griffin Cottle, Dan Heffernan and Gary Liebert provide basic business training, technical assistance and small loans to help local refugee entrepreneurs start and expand small businesses. The Center for Enterprise Development has an online business directory featuring JFCS clients who have started small businesses in the Louisville area. CED also offers clients low-cost website development assistance with professional logos created by the JFCS marketing department.

Business classes are taught by CED staff members, assisted by volunteer presenters, including small business owners, marketers, research librarians, accountants, attorneys and representatives from local financial institutions.  The goal of training is for each individual to complete a comprehensive business plan.  Clients receive one-on-one assistance in starting a business when they have completed classes and their plans, and if requested, receive loan preparation services.

While JFCS have been involved with enterprise development for 15 years, it has been collaborating with Community Ventures Corporation for the past several years.  Since 2007, the CED has made more than 40 loans totaling upwards of $200,000 that have benefited refugee entrepreneurs from Bosnia, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Burundi, Somalia and the former Soviet Union.  For more information on the Center for Enterprise Development, and the programs that it offers, please contact Gary Liebert at (502) 452-6341 ext. 154.


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