What Financial Independence Means to Me

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To mark Financial Independence Day, Lucia from Grameen America Oakland is sharing her own personal story of financial independence. Since joining in 2013, Grameen America has invested 10 loans totaling over $40,000 in her small business.

My name is Lucia and I joined Grameen America in 2013. Before I became a member, I juggled three jobs while going to beauty school, working long hours as a janitor, a teacher’s assistant at beauty school and a beautician at a local beauty salon.

After graduating, I worked out of a small corner of a salon in Oakland where I styled hair and painted nails for commission. When I was laid off, I was deep in school loans and struggling to support myself financially. I knew I had to do something to turn things around.

A friend told me that Grameen America helped women start their own businesses through microloans. With my first loan of $1,000, I invested in quality hair and nail supplies to start my own small business. The loan changed my financial situation and the Grameen America weekly center meetings made me responsible and accountable.

In 2015, I opened Beautz Face, Hair and Nail Lounge. At first, the space was decked out with second-hand tables and not much else. Through additional support from Grameen America, I bought new stations, mirrors and chairs. Everything else came after that.

"I am now a business owner thanks to Grameen America. I have gained the freedom to pursue my own goals and I am able to treat my clients as if they were family."

My friends have helped me use social media to market my business, and while at times finances have been tight, my salon is now doing well.

Aside from my salon, I have a YouTube channel where I document how I do my nails and makeup. I have over 18k subscribers—I post regularly and get paid a small amount of advertising revenue on each of my posts.

My goal for the future is to have more employees, train new apprentices and grow my online channel to develop an additional income stream. I have four part time employees and I am planning to rearrange my salon so that I can fit another station. I am passionate about helping women to upskill and become better stylists.

My business has made it possible for me to support myself, and I am proud to say I have now paid over half my student loans. Grameen America has helped me save money, invest in my business and rent my own apartment, and I am really thankful.