No-interest loans help individuals, small businesses succeed in Cleveland

Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 18:39:27-05

CLEVELAND — Fruit comically cut into turkeys, watermelon monsters, and flowers entertain the people about to eat it. The displays also solve a very really problem for people like Unique Younger, who go to parties and weddings but can't find anything to eat.

"There are not a lot of selection in outside events for people like me, with diabetes, high blood pressure and things like that," said Younger.

Unique fills carved watermelons with jello and gummy fish, creating a unique display.

That's why she started Unique's Passion making dessert spreads mostly by herself.

It wouldn't have been possible without a no-interest loan from HFLA of Northeast Ohio. Younger already owed a lot of money and other lenders likely wouldn't have taken a chance on her.

Unique packs up some of the food she's put out at the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen.

"HFLA's loans are designed for people that really can't access traditional financing," said Younger.

HFLA Program Director Katy Fuerst says the loans don't require collateral, only someone to guarantee they'll pay if the borrower can't. Fuerst says the loans have helped other people send their kids to college, avoid evictions, and turn their lives around.

Birds made from apples make healthy dessert options more appealing.

A $5,000 loan from HFLA is helping Younger repair her credit while she runs Unique's Passion full time.

"It was very important because it took the headache off of me owing everybody money that I couldn't afford to pay all at once," said Younger.

Unique says she is able to focus on Unique's Passion full time, quitting her day job in 2016.

Once that loan is paid back, Younger says she'll consider a much larger business loan from HFLA, still interest-free, to grow her business.

The impact expands outside just the person or business who gets the loan.

Chocolate covered treats are also part of Unique's Passion's menu.

During busy times of the year, Younger takes on family and friends to help make the spreads, setting an example for them about how to run a business.

"I know the family members and friends that help me out take in the information as far as business owning and how important finances are," said Younger.

HFLA has been operating around Cleveland since the early 1900's.

HFLA says 97 percent of their borrowers pay them back, because the people they work with believe in helping someone else financially too.

"You're helping your neighbor indirectly just by paying your loan back," said Fuerst.