Entrepreneur Works is a non-profit organization focused on helping individuals in underserved neighborhoods gain financial stability and to become self-sufficient.
Recently, representatives from Entrepreneur Works came to the Free Library of Philadelphia on 52nd and
Sansom streets to introduce area residents to a concept that is starting to make its way into the United States from Africa and the Caribbean.
The concept is called Susu and the idea behind it is one person gets together with around 10 friends. All of the people involved contribute a decided amount of money each week. Every week, one person in the Susu gets to keep all of the money in the pot. Simply put, it’s a way to get a loan without having to go through a banking system. The process then continues until every person has had the chance to receive the pot of money.
Entrepreneur Works took this innovative concept and brought it into the United States, but added its own flair. They titled this the Susu Credit Building System.
Entrepreneur Works representative Earl Boyd said that this concept is the perfect way to help people in underserved areas who are unable to get approved for loans, particularly new immigrants. He said while it is giving them a temporary fix, these people are still dealing with issues of bad credit.
“When it comes to credit, people don’t really understand it,” Boyd said. “They end up getting into financial trouble and they can’t establish credit to get access to certain things.”
Entrepreneur Works decided to take this concept and officiate it. When a group of people create their own Susu, Entrepreneur Works will act as a mediator and will set up Automatic Clearing Houses to withdraw money out of each member’s bank accounts every week.
What is the selling point?
If members consistently make their weekly payments with no problems or defaults, Entrepreneur Works will report these positive trade lines to two out of the three credit bureaus. By being reported to the credit bureaus, all members remaining in good standing with their Susu’s will start to earn and build their credit.
Donovan Robinson attended the workshop and while he’s already a member of his own privately run Susu, he said he likes the added qualities that come with working with Entrepreneur Works.
“This program, as opposed to the one I’m involved with, gets reported to the credit bureaus. This legitimizes it and for me,” Robinson said. “It takes it to another level, whereas the other one is just based on the trust of your friends.”
Barbara Brown, a librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia, said this type of program is a common request for residents in West Philadelphia and that this particular company, Entrepreneur Works, was recommended by the head of the business department at the main library of Philadelphia.
“So with the programs we try to tailor to the kind of questions that we get and the kind of needs that the community has,” Brown said. “There is a big interest in things having to do with finance, especially in this day and age with the economy in the state that it’s in.”
Nona Williams also attended the program and while she’s been a big fan of Susu’s, she said she is
excited about getting involved with Entrepreneur Works.
“Aside from giving people the opportunity to accumulate money at one time, the reporting to the credit bureau is wonderful,” Williams said. “I think banks and businesses have had helping hands, and this gives the individual the opportunity to get some assistance.”
While banks and credit unions offer a vast amount of services, not everyone will be eligible for them. One particular financial institution in West Philadelphia is the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union on 54th Street and Baltimore Avenue.
While this financial institution is there for the sake of helping members, it is not always possible to approve every person who walks in the door for a loan.
John Visconto is a member service representative at the bank. Some of Visconto’s responsibilities include processes and books loan applications.
“When people have bad credit scores we have a hard time approving them for loans. If they do get approved, they generally have a higher interest rate so they ultimately end up paying more money,” Visconto said. “We do have to turn some people down and we feel bad about it. It hurts them and it hurts us as a lending industry. It seems like a lot of people are confused about their credit reports because they don’t know what’s on them.”
Entrepreneur Works’ ultimate goal is to help people who normally wouldn’t get approved for loans and other services because of their credit. Through Susu, Entrepreneur Works has the ability to help enable funding for individuals while helping them to build credit.