BRONX, N.Y. (4/15/08)--On Monday, when the New York Daily News published a story about Bronx, N.Y.-based Bethex FCU giving a business loan to a blind mechanic when no other would, two people called Bethex wanting to join.
"That's how we found out (about the article)," said Bethex CEO Joy Cousminer.
Bethex gave a business loan to mechanic Fitz Octave about one year ago. Octave, who is legally blind, came to the U.S. from his native Caribbean with skills in auto repair. He wanted to open his own business, but the banks he visited turned him down.
Octave had a savings account with Bethex, so he went to the credit union for help. "He had a good business plan," said Bethex Loan Officer Maria Estrella.
Bethex gave Octave a $15,000 loan, and his business is doing well, Estrella said. Octave had a $15,000 state grant and $30,000 in savings also, but he needed more. The banks he visited--Bank of America, Washington Mutual, Chase and HSBC--had all turned him away (New York Daily News April 14).
Unlike a conventional bank, which gives out loans based on credit scores, Bethex looks at each situation individually. "We're old-fashioned," Estrella said.
She calls Octave once a month. "We always call him," she said. "We want to make sure he's doing okay."
Bethex lends to about 42 small businesses. The credit union also helps market the businesses by sending out a list of the businesses the credit union serves with each member's statement in the mail. "When people are looking for auto repair, they know where to go," Estrella said.
Aside from being the only credit union in the area that helps start-up businesses, according to Estrella, Bethex also provides free tax preparation for its members and remittances.
"We're the great one," Estrella said. "There's no other credit union like Bethex."
Bethex started as a credit union serving mothers on welfare and continued serving only those on welfare for about five years, Cousminer said. Now, members' incomes are varied, but all borrowers must abide by the same rules. "Some people feel that trust goes along with the amount of income," she said, but noted that it isn't always the case.
Bethex caters to the "poorest of the poor," but all of Bethex's employees are from the community, so they know what members need, Cousminer added.
"We do wonderfully," she said. "We're a good credit union."
courtesy of cuna.org