Thanks to Opening Doors for this story!
Ten years ago Irena was eight months pregnant and fleeing her home country of Ukraine with her husband and two small children. Her family’s safety was threatened because they disagreed with the government’s communist ideals, and despite being a talented tailor, the unstable economy impeded her sewing business and hope for prosperity.
Once her family resettled in Sacramento, Irena felt enormous relief and hope for their future. Despite feeling intimidated about adjusting to American culture, Irena began the process of rebuilding her life and making new connections.
To support her family, Irena worked at a dry cleaning business, but her passion for tailoring never abated, and she completed simple dress and suit alterations from her home. It was not until 2008 that she began reaching out to Sacramento lenders to launch a business called Silhouette Custom Design.
After meeting with an Opening Doors business specialist in 2009, Irena learned that she qualified for technical assistance and financing through our special loan program for refugees. With the help of a $15,000 loan, Irena purchased specialized equipment, including a sewing machine that allowed her to take on more complex projects.
Irena worked hard for three years, established a stronger and larger customer base, and took out a second loan. She used the money to open a boutique in downtown Sacramento where she fits clients and does most of her sewing.
After working diligently to establish Silhouette Custom Design as a reputable small business within the Sacramento community, Irena now creates mostly custom work for her clients, including bathing suits, evening and cocktail dresses, and business attire. Recently, Irena signed a long-term contract to recreate historical military uniforms to be featured in museums in Germany and Austria.
Before leaving her home in Ukraine, Irena struggled to make a living despite being a highly skilled tailor. Today, with help from Opening Doors’ Prosperity Project, Irena is a thriving entrepreneur who supports her family doing the work she loves.
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