Birmingham, AL,
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Small Business Jewels

Providing Help to Entrepreneurs Boosts Community’s Economic Health

José Antonio Garcia grew up watching his dad run his own jewelry store in Mexico City. From his dad, José learned the tricks of the trade and developed a passion for the business. Later, José had a jewelry store of his own. He also worked for the police department in Mexico. Then, because of safety reasons, he decided to move to the United States.

That was 20 years ago. José moved to Beverly Hills, California, to work with his cousin, who owned a jewelry store. After a year in California, José moved to Birmingham, Alabama, at the invitation of a friend. He lived with ten people doing construction work.

José yearned to work in the jewelry industry. He found a job at a well-known jewelry store. The owners not only gave him a job, but also helped him get a car and a place to live, and even sent him to English classes.

Finally, after working and saving for 11 years, he had enough money to start his own store, García’s Fine Jewelry. The business grew, but Jose knew he needed help to take his business to the next level. Fortunately, he knew of an organization called Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!). ¡HICA! facilitates economic integration by building family wealth and encouraging savings among Hispanic immigrants. It helps Alabama create vibrant and economically healthy communities.

José contacted ¡HICA! and learned about the Asset Building and Economic Development Program (ABED). The program offers entrepreneurs help to launch, manage, expand or improve their small businesses. It helped Jose file his taxes and manage his bank accounts.

“Seeing entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams is the best part of my job. I love to see them working for themselves and thriving,“ says Johanna Alvarez, ABED Program Director. “I am excited to see how Jose grows his business even more.”

José’s wife Dolores helped him with taxes and finances through the ABED courses. The couple even applied for and received a loan through ¡HICA!’s micro-lending program. With the loan, José was able to buy a jewelry machine. With it, he can do a six-hour-by-hand job in 15 minutes. This has helped him increase his business.

It turns out the jewelry store was just a start. Recently, José and Dolores had an opportunity to buy a local restaurant. They did and Dolores is now the manager. She also helped with the Holiday Tamales Sale, ¡HICA!’s largest fundraiser.

“I feel I am just at the beginning of a long journey. My goal is to be like the large jewelers,” says Jose. “One day, I want to win first prize in designer and jeweler competitions with my store. I have won twice while working with the other jewelry store. But it would mean so much to win first prize with my own store. I thank ¡HICA! for all the help they provided me, my family, and our two businesses. I know we can continue to grow both.”

“¡HICA! is grateful to State Farm for its support of the Asset Building and Economic Development program,“ says Isabel Rubio, ¡HICA! Executive Director. "Because of it, many Hispanic families in Alabama are on the path to financial stability and upward mobility.”