Breaking Barriers to Entrepreneurial Success
Through Greenline Access Capital, Kersy Azocar and team aims to provide disadvantaged communities with capital and capacity for economic and social advancement.
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In her roughly 20 years of experience working in the United States, Kersy Azocar has turned herself into a stalwart in the financial industry.
Throughout her career, she has dedicated herself to a single mission — helping others.
Her particular career trajectory has led her down the path of addressing the needs of emerging and existing entrepreneurs, specifically by helping them gain access to loans and build capital.
As Azocar has worked in the industry, she has helped countless individuals while gaining valuable skills along the way.
After continuing to develop those skills and make a positive impact, last year Azocar decided to begin a new chapter of her career.
In September 2021, she officially launched Greenline Access Capital, where she serves as its President & CEO.
The nonprofit financial organization was founded on the principle of providing equitable access to financial resiliency and wealth through entrepreneurship.
This is a concise, deliberate approach encapsulated by the reality she has observed over the years.
“I was working with different nonprofits around the nation, helping them in the microlending department, and I just kept hearing the same stories,” said Azocar in an interview with AL DÍA.
“I have issues, I don’t have anyone to help me, what’s going to happen to my business, and all these heartbreaking stories,” she continued.
Hearing those concerns from clients made Azocar want to do even more to help those individuals and their communities.
In just a year, Greenline Access Capital has already closed 9 loans totaling $62,000, connected 45 clients to nearly $3 million in financing through grants and loans, and fundraised over $75,000.
As an official Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the goal is to bring funding and resources into communities where it has often been missing.
While Azocar leads the charge as the President & CEO of Greenline Access Capital, she takes each opportunity to delegate credit to the team she works with every day, as well as those who have helped her along this new entrepreneurial journey.
How It All Began
Azocar was born and raised in the Dominican Republic.
While her professional career has been in the fields of finance and business, she had originally gone to school for industrial engineering.
Upon coming to the United States, her first job was in business administration. While working in that field, she found that the process was something that really attracted her.
“We hear all these glorified stories of running businesses… but what we don’t often see is the struggles of small businesses, working seven days [a week], long hours, very isolated with a lack of resources,” said Azocar.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Azocar has seen some of those challenges first-hand.
However, she admits that are differences between how things are operated in the Dominican Republic, compared to the United States.
In light of this, she has often seen how immigrants who come to the U.S. often struggle to navigate the process of starting or growing a business.
In addition, she has also seen some institutions and representatives take advantage of small business owners by charging them higher fees or mismanaging their accounts.
“I’m passionate about helping break that cycle, making sure our small businesses have the help they need, so they can be better for their families and for their communities,” said Azocar.
Throughout her career, that’s what she has done and aims to continue doing.
A 13-Year Tenure, and a Pandemic
After some years of living and working in New York and New Jersey, Azocar came to Philadelphia in 2008 to join FINANTA as part of a small team of just four people.
She’d become the senior vice president of the microlending department, helping provide financing operations to small businesses.
Throughout her tenure there, Azocar helped FINANTA make strides that had yet to be reached in decades prior.
During her tenure, the CDFI closed the most microloans in the region, and ranked among the top eight in the nation.
In addition to that, FINANTA helped provide technical assistance, create workshops, connect clients with resources, build credit and a multitude of other things to help small businesses grow and thrive.
Azocar’s experiences there helped her pick up some valuable skills, from organizational to administrative, and number-crunching.
However, one of the most crucial skills was innovation, which has always been a valuable skill, especially with what came in 2020.
When the pandemic happened, FINANTA continued its approach of meeting clients where they are.
“We acted quickly,” said Azocar. “We created an emergency loan program where small businesses could access small loans to pay their past due rent and things like that.”
People were struggling — more than ever before — and as fear set in, Azocar and her team at FINANTA were there to help clients access loans, apply for grants, and find other financial avenues.
“It was chaotic, but it was also very real to see how unprepared our small businesses were,” she noted.
From not having the proper documentation to a lack of tax records and other factors, some small business owners were unable to take advantage of PPP. It was even worse considering that many clients revealed that other providers were not providing the necessary services.
In July 2020, FINANTA merged with Community First Fund, to create the second-largest CDFI in the region, still bounded by the mission of providing funding for job-creating businesses to start and grow.
Azocar remained with the newly-merged CDFI for about a year before venturing into a new journey.
“The Owner of My Destiny”
Azocar remarks that she is super happy working with small businesses, making a career out of that endeavor.
However, after deciding to leave FINANTA in 2021, she came to the conclusion that she wanted to be the owner of her own destiny.
Azocar wanted the opportunity to be her own boss.
That mindset is what led her toward starting her own consulting firm, always very driven to do well.
“Now, I’m back to the nonprofit world in this position as the president of Greenline,” she said.
The entrepreneurial journey can be a daunting one for many, but for Azocar, her drive has kept her focused and determined.
“I think I was very driven because I knew this type of organization was needed in the community,” she said.
Tackling Discrimination and Implicit Bias
Greenline Access Capital is a Latina-owned business.
As a Latina entrepreneur, Azocar knows all too well the disparities that exist for diverse small business owners, having endured discrimination and biases in her own right.
For many, those experiences can lead to a lack of trust in financial institutions, which can have a negative trickle-down effect.
Azocar leads her firm with one key ingredient.
“I think everything begins with respect,” said Azocar.
It is her belief that trust and respect go hand-in-hand. If she treats her clients with respect, then over time, that client will respect her and the institution.
“I always tell people, ‘we value you as a client, and we also always look at what’s best for you,’” she underscored.
Where financing opportunities have historically been nonexistent for many diverse small business owners, Greenline wants to afford more of those opportunities.
So far, Greenline has served more than 100 clients — 90% are Latino, 7% are Black, and 3% are Asian.
“This is not about just telling Latinos because I am Latina,” said Azocar. “I’m going to help anybody who needs our service because when businesses grow it’s good for my business and our community.”
It’s a Collaboration
Philadelphia is home to about a dozen CDFIs working to help create access to capital for diverse business owners.
As Greenline adds itself to the mix, Azocar takes a mindful approach toward maximizing its impact.
While some CDFI leaders may see the other CDFIs as competition, “we don’t want that,” said Azocar.
“We see ourselves as collaborators,” she added.
Still new to the scene, Greenline has been partnering with other CDFIs in the region to help its small business clients.
By partnering with like-minded organizations, a bigger impact can be achieved.
“The more organizations that work in synchrony, the better outcome for everybody,” said Azocar.
In the short-term, Azocar hopes to help Greenline solidify its status in the Philadelphia region, establishing itself as a high-quality connector for diverse businesses looking for financing opportunities.
The resources in the city are plentiful; however, many simply are not aware of them. Greenline is here to help close that gap.
As the firm continues to grow with more capital, a bigger staff, and more resources, the impact will grow, as well.
In the long-term, Azocar sees this venture turning into a positive for her community, and many other diverse communities.
“We want to make sure that our clients’ needs are addressed in a holistic way, she said.
By gaining capital, clients can use it to buy homes, purchase a commercial building, and in other cases, build wealth.
“We want to make sure that we're stabilizing the business owners so that everything else can get better,” added Azocar.
To reach Greenline, contact the team at [email protected].