Entrepreneur Spotlight: Jariatu Yillah

Owner of Israel Enterprises

RMMFI’s first-ever loan went to Jariatu Yillah, owner of Israel Enterprises. Jariatu is an immigrant from Sierra Leone, and she started her business selling imported accessories more than a decade ago as a way to build the future she wanted for herself and her family.

Jariatu came to the United States with a limited education and found it difficult to secure a meaningful job. She worked as a housekeeper for many years, but even though it was enough to pay her rent, she was still stressed and frustrated because she didn’t feel like she was growing or improving herself. Jariatu knew education was one path forward, but she didn’t have the money to go to school; she decided to start her own business instead.

After getting support with licensing from a lawyer, Jariatu connected with RMMFI and received her first business loan. She started with just $500, but that was enough for her to buy a batch of inventory. Initially, Jariatu wasn’t selling directly but would instead find products for other sellers at markets in Aurora and Denver. She would pay her rent and use the rest of her profits to purchase more inventory, and she steadily built up her business.

Eventually, Jariatu shifted her business model and began selling her products herself. She continued taking out loans from RMMFI to support her’s business’s growth, increasing the loan size by $500 each time. In addition to accessing capital, Jariatu regularly worked with RMMFI staff to build her knowledge and mature as a business owner. She also turned to RMMFI to learn more about personal finance, such as how to use a credit card responsibly, because working with banks was not common where she grew up.

In total, Jariatu has borrowed over $83,000 across 22 loans from RMMFI, including her first Growth Loan this year. Her business has grown to the point that she has been able to support her daughters through college, something she is very proud of. Jariatu is also starting to look into opening a shop or buying rental property in Sierra Leone to support herself in retirement. Through her entrepreneurial journey, Jariatu has created the opportunities for personal growth and family prosperity she sought when she came to the United States: “Life was such a struggle before, but I think I’m almost there.”