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Arizona Microcredit Initiative helps local entrepreneurs' business dreams come to life

All-vegan grocery store Veggie Rebellion opened its doors with help of AMI

AMI EBoard.jpg

Director of operations Tanner Scott, director of consulting Justin Ferrara, executive director Alex Schreck, director of finance Sean Eghlimi and director of workshops Julie Kaplan pose for a photo at the W.P. Carey School of Business in Tempe, Arizona, on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Courtesy of ASU Now. 

Microloans, business plans, marketing – you name it, non-profit Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) is helping ASU students gain real world experience through helping local entrepreneurs start up businesses. 

AMI's goal is to empower newer or inexperienced entrepreneurs to start or expand businesses through consultations with AMI members, microloans and workshops. 

Finance junior Sean Eghlimi serves as Director of Finance for the organization and has been a member since 2016. He said has learned his business skills through mentorship, finance classes and outside reading. 

“I have served entrepreneurs across all three of our service verticals: workshops, consulting and loans,” Eghlimi wrote in an email. “I found underwriting microloans the most challenging and rewarding vertical, which propelled me to step into the leadership position I currently hold."

Finance and economics junior Alex Schreck is the Executive Director of AMI. Through AMI, Schreck said that he has learned how to conduct himself in a professional environment.

Schreck highlighted that communication is key when starting a business.

“If you're not able to communicate to other people what you do and what position you hold in servicing the underserved entrepreneur, then you're not going to be as effective,” Schreck said. “Strong communication really unites a team.”

Students in AMI have helped start up many local businesses, from La Gattara Cat Lounge & Boutique to the Million Dollar Teacher Project.

One of AMI's most recent clients were the co-owners of Veggie Rebellion, an all-vegan grocery store in Glendale.

Eghlimi said AMI has been working with Veggie Rebellion since the summer of 2017. He said that he was part of a three-person loan team who underwrote $5,000 to help start their business.

“Veggie Rebellion, a West Valley-based vegan grocery store, is a dream client,” Eghlimi said in an email. “First of all, their business idea is terrific; I was sold the moment I met them. We were lucky enough to be able to help them start their business with a $5,000 loan, which they paid back 17 months earlier than expected.”

Eghlimi said that AMI is currently working to provide Veggie Rebellion with another loan that will help fund additional projects within their store.

Schreck said that one of his favorite businesses AMI has worked with was Veggie Rebellion.

“We worked with them through our loan process to get their store running … The loan that we gave them was supposed to be a year long loan but when they first opened they killed it in their revenues,” Schreck said. “They did really well in their first month so they were able to pay back the loan in just three months.”

Sandra Mckee, co-owner of Veggie Rebellion, decided to start her own vegan grocery store in the Valley after visiting an all-vegan store in Portland, Oregon. Mckee said that she has been a vegan for 14 years and has struggled to find all-vegan groceries in the West Valley, so she decided to start her own business to provide a place for people who want to eat vegan to shop. 

Mckee said that she was impressed with AMI students.

“I thought that it was really valuable that students in AMI are working towards something and they’re helping people out,” Mckee said. “They're doing really great things for small businesses and I thought it was super cool. I met with them and the rest is kind of history.”

Mckee originally wanted to work with AMI on financing, but she realized that she wasn’t at that point yet. 

“I was still in the process of completing and tailoring my business plan,” Mckee said. “So I met with their business division first and they spent a few weeks helping me fine-tune my business plan. After that was all figured out and it was up to par, they pushed me over to the finance division and the finance division took over from there.”

Veggie Rebellion started as a few tables in a farmers’ market, achieved with help from a microloan from AMI, and then opened its doors as its own store in February. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @jessiemy94 on Twitter. 

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