BiGAUSTIN (Business Investment Growth), Focus Area: Financial Stability

We continue our in-depth look at the new programs United Way Capital Area is supporting through the new Community Impact Model. You’ve probably heard of the enormous success that global micro-lending organizations have had–foundations like Kiva and TrickleUp–and, maybe you’ve wondered why a similar program can’t be duplicated right here in Central Texas for low-income individuals. Through BiGAUSTIN, the success of micro-lending and low-income business support is taking place here in Central Texas.

BiGAUSTIN provides a developmental approach to address the needs of potential and existing entrepreneurs through training, technical assistance, access to markets and lending resources. BiGAUSTIN’s primary market is individuals with an interest in business ownership or business expansion whose access to credit and/or to high quality business training and ongoing support is limited or non-existent as a result of poverty, minority or gender status, or other barriers to business opportunity.

The typical BiGAUSTIN client is a low-income individual, member of a racial and ethnic minority group, or a woman with a high school education and little formal business training. Typically, our clients have been in business for less than two years, and many start as micro-enterprises. They also start their businesses on an uneven playing field, competing with business owners who have more capital, fiscal agility and other economic resources. Through the services provided by BiGAUSTIN, more entrepreneurs gain access to markets, financial literacy, management skills, and increased access to funding, thereby reducing this gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged.

Clients Served: Over 6000
Loans Disbursed: $4.3M
Loans to Low Income: 70%
Loans to Minority Clients: 69%
Loans to Women: 58%
Overall Low Income: 58%

Success story
Keishal Walker — Release Hair Designs
When Hurricane Katrina threatened New Orleans, Keishal Walker, her husband, and their children took refuge in rural Mississippi for what they thought would be a three day visit. But then Hurricane Rita hit the region and a pregnant Keishal and her family were forced to leave Mississippi and settle in a rural Louisiana shelter. Eventually they moved to Austin, Texas.

Far from her home, her New Orleans hair salon destroyed, a discouraged Keishal applied to BiGAUSTIN’s Beyond Boundaries Program. “When I didn’t even believe in myself BiGAUSTIN did,” Keishal says. At Beyond Boundaries, she found classes and workshops tailored to the specific needs of Katrina evacuees. BiGAUSTIN, through the assistance of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), provided Keishal with a $2000 cash equity award from the Women and Company® Microenterprise Boost Program. She used these funds to purchase a used salon work station. Keishal gave birth to her fifth child in November, and opened her Austin hair salon one month later.

As her business took hold, she invested in advertising in the local Yellow Pages and purchased a credit card machine that allowed for direct deposits into her bank account. Soon Keishal needed to hire a stylist to meet the demands of her growing business, which had grown from 10 to 30 clients per week. She received a wealth of information through a BiGAUSTIN class, Marketing on the Cheap, and has more than doubled her business. Attending two of BiGAUSTIN’s networking events, Keishal has become more outgoing and confident about marketing her business herself.

With true entrepreneurial spirit, Keishal visited the businesses in her new neighborhood, going door to door to introduce herself. Her effort brought in clients and helped her find a place in her new community. She also became a medical hair specialist, offering private consultations for women with hair growth and scalp disorders.

Keishal likes to describe BiGAUSTIN as her BiG SISTER, for helping her through this difficult time. She has named her new salon Release Hair Designs to reflect her release from the confusion and instability of her life immediately following Katrina. With help from BiGAUSTIN, her boost award money, and a lot of determination, Keishal has become a role model for other evacuees with similar stories in the Austin area.

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