Elena grew up in the Montbello neighborhood of Denver.  Her parents were older, and her father struggled with health issues throughout Elena’s childhood.  With only her mother working to support the family, they struggled financially.  The family moved in with relatives, and Elena rarely saw her mother, who worked 14 hours a day to make ends meet.

Elena has a learning disability and often struggled in school, especially with reading.  At the age of 16, she was involved in a car accident that left her in a coma for a week. She fell even farther behind in her classes.  At the age of 17, she dropped out and left home get a job and make her own way.

After her father’s death in 2002, Elena decided to pursue her dream to become a hair stylist.  As a single mother, Elena wasn’t sure she could do it, but ultimately she finished high school and graduated from cosmetology school.

Elena’s road to small business ownership began with a terrible experience dealing with unethical business practices and an untrustworthy employer.  After working at a salon for five years, Elena lost her job and her clients when her employer closed the salon suddenly and without warning.

Elena wanted to operate her own business with high standards and quality service, but she knew she didn’t have the funding to launch or the credit score to get a loan from a bank. Elena enrolled in entrepreneurial training at Mi Casa and graduated with a strong business plan. She continues to receive business counseling from Mi Casa and was recently approved to become a borrower through Kiva Zip. The crowd-funding website helps low-income entrepreneurs without access to traditional financing – like Elena – raise funds for business growth.

Elena plans to name her salon iCandy Hair Studio and will offer haircuts, color, and eyelash extensions.  She is currently working on a patent for the type of eyelash extensions she offers to clients.

“I struggled with a lot of different issues, including my learning disability and the passing of my father, but I pushed myself and I’m so happy I did it,” says Elena.  “Mi Casa gave me the plan I needed and I can’t wait to be able to open my salon and continue doing something I love.”