AFI Case Study: Mercy Corps NW, an AFI Grantee in Oregon, Helps IDA Holders Start Successful Businesses

June 20, 2019
barber cutting man's hair

Joseph Ewer, a 32-year-old resident of Beaverton, Oregon, wanted to start his own barber business. He had the requisite ambition, but lacked a plan and the money to make his dream come true.

While working at a chain hair salon, he discovered the perfect commercial space—a condo where his family could both live and work. But Joe could neither afford the start-up and equipment costs, nor did he have a solid business plan.

While clipping a client’s hair one day, Joe learned about Mercy Corps, an Assets for Independence (AFI) grantee that runs an Individual Development Account (IDA) project. “The Oregon IDA Initiative helped a lot, because the more you save, the more you’re supported,” he says. Once he enrolled in the program, Joe began to build toward his goal with small steps—literally: “I would take my tip money for the day and walk five hundred feet down the mall to my bank and put it in my savings account,” he recalls.

With the help of Mercy Corps’ IDA staff, Joe eventually developed a good business plan. “I didn’t want to do it,” he points out, “but it was the best thing that happened. It forces you to look at what you are planning to do.” Now, the chairs at the new Joe’s Barber Shop are full all day, and the pleased proprietor earned more last year than he ever had. Moreover, “there’s always money in my savings account,” he proudly reports.