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Harrison Coleman
Barbershop owner

Demopolis, Alabama
CDFI: Demopolis Federal Credit Union
Loan type: Small-business loan

Harrison Coleman practically grew up in his father's barbershop in Demopolis, Alabama. After his father retired, he wanted to open up a barbershop of his own. "What I wanted to do was try to offer some employment for people who probably didn't want to go to college or couldn't go to college. This would give them a way of bringing their economic level up, and hopefully would affect their families' lives as well."

Harrison was finally able to get a bank loan for construction for the barbershop, but this loan did not include funds to buy the barber chairs and carpeting essential for the functioning of the shop. The bank was not willing to increase his loan amount. But at the Demopolis Federal Credit Union, Harrison was able to get the money he needed.

"The thing with the credit union is that these people are people you know, people you go to church with, people you talk to, people who share the same interests and have probably felt the blunt blow of the same things you’ve dealt with in your life. So when you put people like that on the credit committee, they tend to look a little deeper and they tend to look at ways of helping you, rather than ways of holding out on you. And that’s a big difference between the credit union and the bank."

Harrison has hired and trained a number of young men to work as barbers, some of whom have gone on to start their own shops. Coleman's Barbershop has been very successful, and Harrison is currently opening a restaurant nearby. While he is now able to approach commercial banks for his new ventures, he is still an active member of the credit union, and believes it plays an essential role in his community.

"I think the credit union has probably the greatest potential for growth of any institution in this area because so many people have fallen through the cracks, and those people need a way to get started again. The banks are about people who are already established. At a bank, there's a group of directors who pretty much dictate the flow of the money. At the credit union, you're actually borrowing from yourself and you have a voice in what you do. You have a vote as well. Anytime you go to a credit union you realize that, once you become a member, you're actually a part owner in that facility."

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