My name is Chany and I was born in Cambodia in 1981. My family was big, I had 9 brothers and sisters, my mother, and my father, but at age 12 our father passed away. After that, my siblings and I had to work together to support our family, as our mother was paralyzed and could not support the household.
I started to become entrepreneurial in order to help feed my brothers and sisters. I started with making cakes and selling them at school, where I was learning how to cook and sew. I could not afford the ingredients for the cakes, but the woman at the corner store would lend them to me, and once I sold the cakes I would come back and pay her for the product I used, and buy more product. After this proved to be successful for me, my older siblings and I started a corner store. In the morning, we would wake up and set up the store for my mother, so she could sit during the day to sell products while we were at school. After school, we would come home and work some more while our other siblings were inside cleaning and cooking. I did this from the age of 13 to 21, when I left Cambodia for the United States.
My husband was friends with my Uncle, and after seeing a picture of me at his home in Philadelphia, my husband started writing and calling me in Cambodia. I would ask him questions about himself and his life, and I liked his answers! I took a chance and married him hoping to start a family and find a better life for myself in the United States. When I arrived, we had nothing to our names except for one pot and four bowls! My husband had spent his savings on the flight for me to come to the United States, and we had to start from scratch.
While my husband worked at a factory, I started taking ESL classes and after a few months I opened a Chinese food stand for a few years. During this time, I had my first child, Angela, and my second Ethan Chan. In 2008, I decided to leave my Chinese food business and purchase a dry cleaners. I work at the dry cleaners during the day, while my husband works at the factory. At night, my husband works at the dry cleaners, and I work at one of my other two jobs. Together, we are working five jobs and just making ends meet. I wanted to revamp my business, and with help from the local organization, Esperanza, I was able to start turning my dry cleaners into a custom dress and suit boutique.
I bought the dry cleaners in 2008, and since then, business has been slow. I have been working at a BBQ and as a seamstress on the side to help supplement our income. In Cambodia, myself and my siblings all learned how to sew, and I dreamed of turning my dry cleaner into a custom boutique but I never thought that would be possible, until I started working with an organization in Philadelphia called Esperanza. They helped me realize that I could start my boutique, and that there were people and programs that could help me do it. With their confidence and guidance, I launched Angela’s boutique, named after my daughter, six months ago.
Currently, I am selling a combination of wholesale dresses, and custom dresses that can be used as pageant wear, prom dresses, wedding dresses, and also custom men’s suits. All of the custom work is being done by me, and my siblings in Cambodia! I will sketch out dresses or suits with clients, and send the designs back to my sisters and brothers. They will make the base product, send it to me, and I will do the finishes. Even all the way in the United States, my family and I are still working together to make sure we are all living successful and happy lives.
Currently, the store is set up as a dry cleaner and I have no space for the dress racks, dressing rooms, or display windows. I am working with Esperanza and the City of Philadelphia to get the funds for these projects to help turn my store into a neighborhood location where people can come get affordable, beautiful custom dresses and suits.
The outside of my business needs a lot of repair, as well as the inside. I need new windows and signage on both the first and second floor of my business storefront. To help me with this, I have applied for the City of Philadelphia’s Storefront Improvement Program. This program will cover the costs of up to $10,000 of the work I will have done on my storefront. The issue is the funding is reimbursed to me, therefore I need the funds upfront in order to complete the project, and I don’t have this money.
The Kiva Zip loan will help me have the upfront funds necessary to be able to complete my storefront, and be reimbursed by the City of Philadelphia for the work I have done. In addition to helping on the outside, I will also be using some of the Kiva Zip loan, along with funds from Esperanza, to do some interior work to move the dry cleaning to the back of the store, and the boutique to the front.
I have been turned down by many banks. It has not been easy for me, and I thank the lenders on Kiva Zip with all of my heart for helping me make my dreams come true.