COMMUNITY VOICES | From near bankruptcy to business owner

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“When I started driving, I basically had nothing left.  I was going into foreclosure at that time and I was only making some bills, some not.  Whatever savings I had, I had used already,” Syed Hassan said, reflecting on what owning his own cab has meant for him.

Syed was born in Pakistan and came to Minnesota when the company he was working for in the U.K. offered him a job in the Twin Cities.  Excited to start a new life here with his wife and two children, Syed purchased a home and began to settle into the Midwest.  

Within a year, storm clouds were gathering on the horizon.  The company began closing down offices, including Syed’s.  They offered to relocate him, but since Syed owned a house he said, “ No, I’ll stay…I’ll find a job.”

Syed is a thoughtful and meticulous planner and approached his job search with vigor.  But he struggled to find work in a flagging economy, “A few days, months, then on and on and on, and I’m down to my last buck.”  Without many options, and knowing he had to help provide for his family, he decided he couldn’t wait anymore and started driving cabs.

After a year of renting a cab, driving for Airport Taxi and struggling with the $600 weekly taxi rental fee, Syed was ready for a change.  In 2009, he heard about NDC’s Plan it! entrepreneur training program, offered in partnership with Northside Economic Opportunities Network (NEON), and decided to take the class with the intention of opening a restaurant.  Once Syed was enrolled and began studying, he realized that the capital requirement for a restaurant was too high.  Like a true entrepreneur, he readjusted his plan.

He decided to continue driving a cab but purchased his own to make it truly profitable.  By owning his own cab, Syed could save the $600 weekly fee for renting.   

 In 2010, he came to NDC to borrow $10,000, “When I went for the loan, my credit was shot down.  Big time.  NDC supported me at that time.  They could understand what happened, and how I explained it.  They understood, they gave me the loan, they took a chance on me.”

When Syed came to NDC, his credit score was in the low five hundreds but the chance NDC took was not misplaced.  He not only paid off his loan, but did so early by making weekly instead of monthly payments.  He propelled his credit score 170 points to the high six hundreds.

Syed is now contemplating his next steps.  He is still exploring the restaurant idea, but for now, he is saving money and continuing to drive taxi.  He reasons, “if something is going smoothly, why stop it.”  Syed will purchase a new taxi to meet city requirements this year and has come back to NDC, “I preferred NDC because if you had somebody with you in your crisis, you try to give them business after.”

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