The shaky timing behind the launch of a green cleaning business in North Carolina amid a stagnant economy serves as the backdrop of a new film conceived by the Latino Community Credit Union.
The March 28 premier of "Roberto's Dreams" at the Carolina Theater of Durham in North Carolina, coincides with the debut of the $91 million LCCU's new micro business program that will offer loans up to $10,000, savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposits and educational workshops.
The film tells the story of owning a business, featuring the same immigrant couple from LCCU's first award-winning, educational film, "Ang?lica's Dreams," the cooperative said. In the middle of an economic crisis, Roberto has been laid off and his wife Ang?lica continues to struggle with her house cleaning business. Roberto decides to embark on the journey of starting the first Latino green cleaning business in North Carolina.
Unlike Roberto's impromptu decision to become an entrepreneur during uncertain times, LCCU had been thinking about creating a business services division for some time, said Alejandro Sanchez, director of organizational development at LCCU. With eight branches and two more set to open this year coupled with a well-trained bilingual staff and an upcoming business education program, the CU decided 2010 would be the year to take the plunge.
"Many of our members are small business owners, and they were telling us they needed business loans," Sanchez said. "We didn't feel we were ready to offer them because we needed to have an understanding of underwriting and we didn't think we had the internal capabilities. Right now, we have everything we need."
Requests for business services have increased among LCCU's members given the resistant lending environment among banks, Sanchez said. Some members who were laid off and have struggled to find employment have said they see starting a business as their only option now, he pointed out. Members with existing businesses have outfits ranging from landscaping and cleaning services to construction, small restaurants and day care centers. While most of the businesses are owned by Latinos, Sanchez said, LCCU's micro business program is open to everyone.
Probably one of the most critical components of the program is the educational and technical assistance workshops, Sanchez said. Members will learn the steps to starting a business, including receiving one-on-one counseling from staff. The workshops build on the existing set of six financial literacy workshops that are offered three times a year.
An additional part of the small business educational program is the film, "Roberto's Dreams," funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and created by LCCU, local award winning director-producer Rodrigo Dorfman and the Latino Community Development Center, a nonprofit that promotes financial literacy and economic development in the Latino community. Dorfman shot the film entirely on location in Durham, plunging his main characters deep into the daily life of one of the most vibrant, new Latino communities in the U.S.
'"Roberto's Dreams' is a madcap comedy that tries to follow the footsteps of the Great Depression screwball comedies of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges," Dorfman said. "Ironically, the worse things get, the more people want to laugh."
This is not the first time LCCU has been involved with filmmaking. "Ang?lica's Dreams," the story of Roberto's wife journey to buying a home, premiered in 2007 and earned the CU a Dora Maxwell award.
The CU continues to sound the drum on having the ability to provide lending within underserved areas. On Feb. 3, LCCU President/CEO Luis Pastor met with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to discuss the possibility of providing low-cost funds to community development financial institutions and strengthen their capital base to facilitate much needed lending to local communities.