In the midst of a global pandemic that has many small business owners focused on saving their existing businesses, there are still entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a new one.
One such enterprising individual is Aury Souvenir, owner of the recently launched GSD Home Improvement. GSD Home Improvement is a small, locally owned business specializing in painting, carpentry, landscaping, and snow plowing, servicing in Greater Portland area.
Aury immigrated to Maine from Burundi in 2012 and within a few years, graduated from the University of Southern Maine (USM) with degrees in accounting & finance. While in school, Aury worked as a member of a painting crew, learning the ropes of contract and home-improvement work. Before he graduated, he had become a franchisee of the company and was running his own crew. When Aury saw opportunities to expand beyond painting into snowplowing, landscaping and general carpentry, he decided to open his own fully-independent business.
Aury turned to the Maine Small Business Development Center hosted at USM and the Portland SCORE network for business advice and creating financial projections for his company. He had the organizational pieces in place, but in order to pursue the expansion into landscaping, he would need equipment, namely a riding lawn mover and a trailer to move it between client homes. Aury needed a small business loan to cover the cost of their purchase and turned to fellow business owners in the immigrant community for suggestions. Jocelyne Kamikazi of Burundi Star Coffee recommended that Aury reach out to CEI.
Once he was put in touch with CEI, he met with an advisor in CEI’s Start Smart program, an advising service tailored toward Maine’s immigrant and refugee community, who helped him further refine his business plan and put in an application for a Wicked Fast small business loan.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but Aury was determined to move forward with his plan. “It’s never easy to start a business. There are lots of questions – how are you going to live until you make money, how much can you handle, how many hours?” Those questions remained regardless of the pandemic, and in some ways the timing was fortuitous for a landscaping/home improvement company that largely worked outside, “Now everyone is forced to look at their house all time, since they’re not going out to work. They really notice all the things that need fixing. They either have to do it themselves or call someone to fix it.” Aury was also able to shift his loan application from the Wicked Fast product to a limited-time offering – CEI’s Wicked Reboot Loan, which utilizes SBA microloan funds supported by the CARES Act to help businesses across Maine gain access to capital.
Four months into operations, business is strong. Aury has three people on payroll and four subcontractors. The landscaping portion of the business is at 80% of capacity. He’s already planning for an expansion – within two years he’d like to add a second truck to double his landscaping capacity, showing that his enterprising spirit remains strong, even in unprecedented times.
LEARN MORE ABOUT GSD HOME IMPROVEMENT
LOOKING TO START OR GROW YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
To learn more about how CEI’s StartSmart program can help you start or grow your immigrant-owned business, visit https://www.ceimaine.org/advising/business-counseling-development/startsmart/
For more information on CEI’s loan offerings, including our Wicked Fast loans, visit: https://www.ceimaine.org/financing/