Alfredo is the owner of El Sereno Shoe Repair, a small business that has been family owned and operated in East LA for over 30 years and two generations.  He’s a hardworking, old-fashioned shoe cobbler that’s dedicated to serving his community with exceptional quality and customer service.
 
Eighteen years ago, 11-year-old Ezequiel Olvera approached Alfredo with an ask.  Ezequiel explained that he had invested in an old 10-cent gumball machine with the hope of making enough money to attend college.  He asked Alfredo if he’d be willing to place the gumball machine in his shop.  Alfredo agreed, but only on the condition that Ezequiel maintain good grades.  Alfredo became a role model to Ezequiel, teaching him valuable lessons about business, accountability, and the value of an education.

El Sereno Shoe Repair: Family Owned & Operated in East LA for 30 Years (Left: Alfredo, Right: Alfredo, his family, and father)

 
Armed with an entrepreneurial spirit and profits from Alfredo’s store, Ezequiel was able to purchase an additional machine.  Through hard work and unwavering dedication, his venture soon grew to over 50 gumball and vending machines across East Los Angeles, which he operated out of local businesses throughout the neighborhood.
 
The fruits of his labor included valuable business experience, lessons, and many ups and downs.  Ezequiel learned the importance of understanding market demand by selling products based on customer demographics by site.  For example, he quickly realized that pistachios sold better at the local auto parts store in comparison to candy.  He perfected his sales pitch and learned to deal with rejection when business owners were opposed to housing his machines.  He was forced to stay organized, keep his inventory stocked, collect money on a regular basis, fix broken machines, etc., etc., etc.
 
When Ezequiel graduated high school, he had saved profits of $15,000 from his business, and was able to obtain an academic scholarship to fund the remainder of his college tuition at UC Santa Cruz.
 
Today, Ezequiel aims to empower future generations with the ability to follow a path similar to his own.  He created the Gumball Foundation, which engages middle and high school students in an extracurricular program that teaches creativity, entrepreneurship and social business acumen.  Through the program, students run their own small-scale vending machine business as an educational tool, which gives them valuable hands-on experience, incentivizes them to attend college, and awards them with scholarships.

Gumball Foundation Awards Night: Over 50 College Scholarships Have Been Provided To Date

 
(Left) Gumball Foundation student stocking his machine / (Right) Ezequiel & his original gumball machine


The Gumball Foundation has become one of LA’s most innovative new social ventures, and has recently received a variety of well-deserved recognition.  They won the Annenberg Foundation Audience Award in 2011 at the LASVP Fast Pitch Competition.  The Los Angeles Business Journal named them Social Enterprise of the Year for 2012.  In 2013 they received an LA Emmy nomination and Ezequiel was recognized as an “Unsung Hero of Los Angeles” by the California Community Foundation and the Eisner Foundation.  Alfredo’s pivotal role in the Gumball Foundation’s early origins was recently highlighted in a story covered by NBC and another by LatiNation. 
 


I first came into contact with the Gumball Foundation while working to grow the reach of Kiva Zip in Los Angeles.  I was primarily focused on finding new partner organizations referred to as Trustees, who are empowered with helping entrepreneurs access Kiva Zip loans by publicly vouching for their business concept and character.  In response to the reality that thousands of small business loan applications are denied by banks on a daily basis, the Kiva Zip model aims to leverage community relationships in order to identify trustworthy, hardworking, financially excluded entrepreneurs who have the ability to use loan capital to sustainably grow their business.
 


Despite the fact that Ezequiel’s work is focused on students, Kiva Zip presented an opportunity for him to support local businesses in his community, many of whom were instrumental to his success by graciously housing his gumball machines as a kid.
 
It’s no surprise that the first business Ezequiel chose to endorse for a Kiva Zip loan was Alfredo’s El Sereno Shoe Repair
 
Due to an absence of sufficient capital, Alfredo has struggled to grow revenue on a yearly basis.  Ezequiel is endorsing Alfredo for a $5,000 loan, which will enable him to do the following:

  • Purchase raw materials to create an additional revenue stream through sales of hand-made leather goods
  • Acquire updated machinery to become more efficient
  • Add aesthetically pleasing entrance displays and shoe casings to attract new customers
  • Take advantage of discounts on essential supplies by paying in advance  
Because of Alfredo’s helping hand, Ezequiel was able to gain momentum in his childhood venture, attend college, and start the Gumball Foundation, which has already provided over 50 students with college scholarships.

Things have truly come full circle, as Ezequiel now looks to support Alfredo by helping him access much needed loan capital through Kiva Zip.

Kiva Zip loans are given at 0% interest and crowdfunded online in $25 increments, which means anyone with an Internet connection can lend to borrowers like Alfredo. 
 
Interested in lending to Alfredo?  He needs your help! You can lend as little as $25 towards his loan by following this link to his Kiva Zip profile: https://zip.kiva.org/loans/2728/i/wn7


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Comments

Great work. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story and the difference Kiva Zip and Gumball Foundation are making. Keep pushing!!!

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Matt Bastone Matt is extremely excited to join the Kiva family. He is fascinated by the sustainable manner in which microfinance is used to alleviate poverty and how Kiva has used technology as a conduit for reaching people across the world. Matt is in pursuit of a career in microfinance and believes it suits him well given his professional background, Christian faith, and passion for leveraging innovation to help others. Matt was born and raised in Southern California and graduated summa cum laude with a business degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He is a CPA and began the first three years of his career with Deloitte serving clients in a wide variety of industries and gaining valuable experience in technical accounting, internal control theory, and project management. Since his time at Deloitte, Matt has gained finance experience through roles involving budgeting, forecasting, modeling, strategic planning, and process improvement implementation. Matt loves to travel and has most notably backpacked through Europe and spent an extended period of time in South America learning Spanish. He enjoys being active and particularly loves playing soccer, golfing, surfing, and snowboarding. Matt is humbled by the opportunity to take an active role in furthering Kiva’s impact.