Looking Forward To Endless Opportunities – How COVID-19 Created a Space for Axemia LLC to Evolve
Julie Ibarra has always been community-driven. Her passion has always been helping people succeed. It is where she feels fulfilled and empowered. For a while, this came in the form of a managerial/operations position at a local restaurant in Tucson. While she loved the atmosphere, and Julie always felt that she wanted to do more. As time passed, she came by an opportunity to learn about business and accounting through the City of Tucson. The exposure to this career path ignited in her the drive and motivation to start her business services shop.
Immediately, she felt that her thirst to help those around her had been quenched. Julie helped small, Hispanic owned local businesses obtain proper documentation, set up their businesses, and help them acquire the licenses they needed. The entrepreneurs she was helping were eager for her to help them further with accounting and tax services. While reluctant to delve into this space, Julie caved and established this service. She knew that she had to practice what she preached to her clients, so Julie sought out the resources to become IRS certified.
As Axemia LLC grew, Julie leased an office space that would allow her to bring in two additional staff members. This was a pivotal point for her, as she had accomplished so much. Her plans for 2020 included adding her husband to the team along with another new staff member. Her hope was that she would bring in someone who was new to the industry whom she could mentor and help grow.
As everything was falling into place, COVID-19 came on the scene and changed everything for Julie and Axemia. Thinking of what the months ahead could look like with so much uncertainty, she made the difficult decision to not move into her new office space. Her husband also chose to remain at his current job to help make ends meet. The pandemic took a huge toll on Axemia. With tax season being the busiest time of year, the pandemic and shutdown shifted the tax deadline to further down the year. Julie became anxious and sadden to see all the work she put into her business vanish within a few weeks.
With a slow down of business, Julie retrieved to work from home. Along with the stress of work, she also had to become a teacher to her three school-aged children. As they were now attending school digitally, her first duty was to her kids. As the weeks went by, Julie was starting to feel the financial hardships. All of this was alleviated with the announcement of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Julie immediately knew she had to apply.
As she began her application process with her business bank, Julie was hopeful that things may turn around. The biggest stressor came from having her clients request face-to-face meetings, which is something she could not do at the time as she was working from home. Ultimately, Julie ended up not hearing from her bank until a while later and only to tell her that she was not approved. The news of the decline was very difficult for Julie, but she keeps persisting as a solutions-oriented person by nature.
As an alumnus of the Fuerza Local program by Local First, Julie went into their WhatsApp group chat and learned from one of her instructors, Paul, of an opportunity to apply for the PPP with Prestamos CDFI. She jumped on to the website and filled out the application immediately. Within minutes of hitting submit, Jessica from Prestamos contacted her to get the process going. Getting the call made Julie feel at peace and hopeful that this would be the help she needed.
As the application process was moving forward quickly, Julie thought back to her previous experience. It made her realize that she felt as if her business bank was treating her as just another application, and like her small business didn’t matter to them. The experience with Prestamos was the opposite of that.
With Prestamos, she felt safe and taken care of. Julie felt confident that they were going to take care of her and always doing what was right for her. “Prestamos provided a personalized experience. They were focused on the needs of the individual business, and that makes a big difference. I will definitely be using them as an added resource for myself and my clients”, recounts Julie.
Although her loan amount was small, it had a huge impact on the operations for Axemia and for Julie as an entrepreneur. The loan allowed her to stay afloat and begin the process of adding on additional staff, which she could mentor and help elevate. She is also looking forward to evolving her business. She is thinking of starting a small group of women in the community who are interested in the business, and she could train to help out during tax season for next year.
Julie feels grateful and hopeful for what the future may bring. She is thankful to Prestamos for giving her the confidence and boost she needs to keep pushing her business and goals forward. She sees this situation as an opportunity and time to rest and evolve to make things even better for Axemia moving forward.
Prestamos CDFI is a part of Chicanos por la Causa, a non-profit organization that provides communities with resources ranging from health, education, financial services, housing, and advocacy. Prestamos continues its efforts to advance our work to provide high-quality financial products and services for small businesses that lead to impactful economic development projects. We invite you to visit our website to find out how you can be part of this impact.