Legal Aid Society

A Day In The Life

Supporting Small Businesses in the Community Development Project

Rolando and his Community Development Project (CDP) colleagues give clients, who are primarily people of color, women or immigrants, tools to improve their standard of living and support their families.

Many CDP clients may not have access to the information they need in order to start or maintain a successful business, and a key part of Rolando’s job is educating them on ways to build wealth despite this hurdle. During the first year of the pandemic, when these folks were hit especially hard, Rolando hosted more than 50 community education trainings in both English and Spanish to help small business owners navigate the disruption they experienced in the wake of the pandemic.

Things were so busy during the pandemic that I never stopped coming into the office.

Rolando reviewed countless leases to make sure his clients weren’t being taken advantage of and advised them on payment plans so they could keep their businesses open. But now, almost three years after the pandemic began, those who entered into agreements are still struggling to pay their rent as well as the rent arrears that they agreed to.

Leidy Pagan, former client and now thriving business owner, is just one example of why this preventive education is so important. Rolando met Leidy at a community partner training that focused on choosing appropriate legal structures for a small business and limiting personal liability. He detailed the steps that a new business owner needs to take after opening in order to protect themselves and their assets.

Leidy informed Rolando that she had purchased a salon, but wasn’t sure if she had missed any steps. Her decision to reach out was a wise one. Rolando reviewed her lease and found she was not yet properly operating as a corporation. Thanks to his help, Leidy can now operate her business in a way that complies with existing corporate law and minimizes her liability, which is as crucial for small businesses as it is for large corporations. Rolando explained that his clients have the same needs that big corporations do but “in order for low-income entrepreneurs to have the same chance of success as other businesses, they need to have access to the same range of professional services as the big corporations.”

The work that Rolando and the Community Development Project does is critical to small business owners because it allows them to correctly start their business and get started on a path out of poverty and into financial stability.

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