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Express CU gives second chance to business member
SEATTLE, Wash. (9/28/11)--Elizabeth Morris provides an example of both the credit union people-helping-people philosophy and the potential of how member business lending (MBL) can help the economy. A designer of upscale designer women’s jackets, Morris needed the support of a financial institution to market her line. She also needed “second chance financial services,” as she describes it, after experiencing some personal financial difficulties. “I was in design for years, and I was trying to market myself, but I needed some help,” she told News Now. Washington Community Alliance for Self Help, an organization that empowers aspiring entrepreneurs with limited resources, put Morris in contact with Express CU, which has $10 million in assets in Seattle, Wash. At Express CU, Morris was able to open both a personal and business draft/checking and share/savings account, which allowed her to keep her personal and business finances separate. Morris also needed to process debit and credit cards in her business. ECU does not provide merchant services, but the business checking allowed her to use a bank’s plastic card merchant service processing program for her business. The funds she collected were deposited into her ECU business draft/checking account. The bank refused to deposit plastic card processing into anything but a checking account, which she had at the credit union. No other financial institution would provide Morris with a checking account because of her previous financial difficulties. The credit union checking account was vital to the success of her business, she said. “They gave me a chance when no one else would,” she said of Express CU. “It wasn’t just about money. It was about re-establishing myself as a business person.” Morris initially sold her jackets mainly through word of mouth and put together the jackets in her spare time. With a series of microloans from Express she has contracted out labor for her jackets and displayed her work at regional and national shows. She even sent a jacket to First Lady Michelle Obama and received a thank you letter from the White House. Morris’ goal is to start wholesaling her jackets. She also wants to sell her line in high profile national retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s. Express CU President/Chief Operating Officer Norma Hernandez said she views members such as Morris as partners with the credit union. “When Elizabeth, and so many of our members like her, who have put a lot of work into putting their lives back together or starting their lives over, take time to come here, look us in the eye say, ‘This is what I’ve done,’ we want to give them an opportunity to keep moving forward,” Hernandez said. “They need the support a partner can provide. We want to be that partner.” The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are pressing Congress to increase credit unions' MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. Doing so would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers, CUNA said.


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