Our Stories

Sabrina Domize of My Love PhotographySabrina Domize loves photography. Actually, the name of her company is ‘My Love Photography’. She’s been in business for four years and is currently focusing on maternity and newborns, and takes family photos for returning clients.

When Sabrina heard of ACCESS she had already been in business for a couple of years, but needed some help to take her business to the next stage and expand her marketing campaign. Sabrina was turned down at the bank because she had never had a loan before and was trying to repair her credit history. She says “at ACCESS, everyone was super-friendly and extremely helpful. They went above and beyond to help me and were very interested in the success of my business.”

Sabrina also received feedback on her business plan, which was very helpful for growing her business. Her next step is to purchase new equipment to expand into underwater photography. She’s had an extremely busy summer, but Sabrina describes this as “a nice problem to have!” (From ACCESS' 2016 Annual Report)

Verna Normand of Divern Cleaning Pros Speaking at the ACCESS Black Creek MiniMicroLoan Launch EventVerna Normand is the founder of Divern Cleaning Pros which provides cleaning services, focusing on residential properties. The company offers environmentally safe solutions, which appeals to those who want to avoid harmful chemicals.

Verna first learned of ACCESS when she attended an information session at Black Creek to learn how to put a business plan together. The rest, as they say, is history. Verna was approved for a MiniMicroLoan that helped her buy the equipment needed to get her business going. “I got support which was so important to me,” explains Verna regarding the loan application process.

In business since late December 2015, Verna currently operates the business by herself, but plans on expanding. While the loan might seem small, it had a big impact on Verna’s business. When asked to sum up her experience with ACCESS, Verna simply stated: “They were there when I needed them.” (From ACCESS' 2016 Annual Report)

Ryan O'Neil Knight of Detailing KnightsRyan O’Neil Knight is the founder of Detailing Knights, an innovative idea that offers a water-free car cleaning service. After five years of growing the business, Ryan came across an ACCESS brochure and was drawn to our holistic application review process. He applied and received his first loan. Five years of work meant Detailing Knights already had a strong foundation, and with his ACCESS loan, Ryan was able to expand his marketing, increase his presence, and improve his website. The loan allowed the business to grow into the profitable sustainable business it is today. More recently, Detailing Knights has expanded into another field- youth development. Over the course of a month, groups of high school and college age students, using Detailing Knights as a model, learn how to run their own business. Ryan champions self-employment; as he puts it “I feel entrepreneurship is the best training tool out there…just the experience of it, makes you a better person.” His drive to teach people how to become strong entrepreneurs extends outside his business. Ryan is both an ACCESS mentor and a member of the Peel Loan Review Committee. (From ACCESS' 2015 Annual Report)

Yamileth Sanchez of Just Pink Day SpaYamileth Sanchez is a professional esthetician who graduated in Toronto from Bryan College and has over five years’ experience in the spa business. She created Just Pink Mobile Spa with the idea to provide professional spa services in the comfort of your own home or work place. She gives those who are too busy to visit a regular spa location the opportunity to be pampered and relaxed. She provides services such as massage, manicures and pedicures, waxing, facials and makeup. Yamileth received her first loan through our MiniMicroLoan Program administered by the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and has now received another loan to expand her mobile spa business. She also offers Spa Party services to private and corporate
events. Businesses can book her services to pamper their employees or guests with Mini-Manicures, chair massages and more. (From ACCESS' 2015 Annual Report)

Yvonnne Whelan of Yumart GalleryYvonne Whelan is an artist, curator and business owner. She opened Yumart Gallery in 2013 upon receiving her first ACCESS loan. Since then she has grown a loyal group of artists and clients, outgrown her location at 101 Spadina Avenue, moved to 401 Richmond, Suite B20, and received her second ACCESS loan. “The funding has been essential to getting my business off the ground,” Yvonne says, “the second loan has been essential to creating this new space.”
She’d been on the waiting list for 401 Richmond since she opened her gallery at 101 Spadina Avenue, and when an opening came up she jumped at the opportunity. The new building which houses other artists and galleries provided an increase of traffic as well as wheelchair accessibility. In one week of her new location being open, Yvonne had over 100 walk-ins, new names added to her email list and an opening reception of 250 people. Her gallery shows a variety of established and up and coming artists and in the future Yvonne would love to represent herself and her artists at an international art fair. Yvonne says that “the support factor, having someone believe in you enough to give you this funding” was monumental in the growth of her business as well as her devoted artists and clients. (From ACCESS' 2015 Annual Report)

Tatiyana Newyniak of Quirky QreationsTatiyana Newyniak creates original paintings of celebrity caricatures as well as simple things in life that give people joy like flowers and animals as her subject matter. She also creates many abstract paintings.
“I paint what I love,” she says.
Tatiyana has used her artwork to create a line of greeting cards for all occasions. This has turned what had always been a hobby and a creative outlet into a real business opportunity for Tatiyana. Applying her true passion to make a living has always been her dream. Her mother was a professional artist in the 70s and worked for CBC Television and Tatiyana has always wanted to follow in her footsteps and share her work with other people.
Tatiyana has found ACCESS to be very supportive. Her loan helped her to scan her artwork, print an inventory of greeting cards and to pay her first rent payment at an arts market where she sold her cards. She has also enjoyed working with her mentor, from whom she is constantly learning new things. Tatiyana feels comfortable working with ACCESS and appreciates its grassroots, local approach to working with people. She has enjoyed meeting with ACCESS volunteers and now hopes to do charity work herself to teach art to children with disabilities. (From ACCESS' 2014 Annual Report)

Ron WheatleyRon Wheatley is the proud founder of Ron Wheatley Media and Design, a web-design business geared to supporting small business, coaches and artists. Ron has a background in theatre and the performing arts and has used his networks to carve out an interesting niche.
A few years ago Ron offered to help out author, Eric Maizel, who was looking for someone to help him build a website. Web-design had been a hobby of Ron’s for some time, and what started as a volunteer job quickly turned into a paid gig. Fast forward to today, Eric has become Ron’s biggest client.
Ron began his business with the goal of building websites for clients using Wordpress templates, but he soon realized that his customers really wanted something more personalized. Ron responded to this demand by tailoring his services to the unique needs of each client, so that he was better able to design websites truly representative of their vision.
Ron found out about ACCESS through the ACT program where he was developing his business plan. Frustrated at how strict the traditional banks could be, Ron applied to ACCESS in order to pay for much needed equipment upgrades. The importance of keeping up with the changing technologies is something Ron recognized early on, and Ron was determined not to lose potential clients simply because he didn’t have the necessary software.
Currently, Ron is working on rebranding his business and changing the way he packages his services. This will allow him to develop longer-term relationships with clients.

Karen Torres of Kreative Treasures Kreative Treasures is an event rental business owned by Karen Torres. Karen, a native of the Philippines, has a background in event management and brings a great deal of experience to her business. Her family has been very supportive in her venture, with her parents also having experience in event planning, and her husband with marketing.
Kreative Treasures provides event equipment rentals for weddings, cultural, family and corporate events. As well as event rentals, Kreative Treasures provides photography and editing services. With the help of a loan from ACCESS, Karen was able to renovate and improve her company’s show room and to purchase two key pieces of equipment. She is excited to be expanding her business by launching an ecommerce site to reach new customers. Karen says the biggest reward of owning her own business is the opportunity to provide jobs for people in her community.
For Karen, given her background and the expertise offered by other members of her family, she was always confident that she could operate a successful business, but the biggest obstacle starting out was the difficulty in obtaining financing. She is glad that organizations like ACCESS exist to help entrepreneurs like her be given the opportunity to do what they know they are capable of. (From ACCESS' 2014 Annual Report)

Dwayne Reno of Building Block AssociatesDwayne Reno is the proud owner of Building Block Associates,a marketing, public relations and graphic design firm that provides services for the food and beverage industry. The company began out of Dwayne’s own experience in the restaurant business in Jamaica where he discovered there was a gap in marketing and PR services for the food industry. Building Block Associates creates easy and affordable marketing solutions for businesses.
Through ACCESS’s review process Dwayne was able to perfect his business plan and better refine the most optimal way to leverage financing to grow his business. For Dwayne, the most satisfying moment to date in his journey as a business owner, was being able to hire his first employee. This made Dwayne feel as though he was truly on the path to achieving his entrepreneurial dreams, and it also felt good knowing that he was providing someone else with a job. Dwayne also has the opportunity to work with and learn from many other small business owners since they are his customers. A continuing desire to learn is a theme with Dwayne who has recently taken advantage of ACCESS’s mentorship support to help him continue to improve in his management of Building Block Associates. Dwayne is determined to take his business to the next level, and ACCESS is proud to watch him grow. (From ACCESS' 2014 Annual Report)

Rosemarie Powell of Big on GreenRosemarie Powell is the co-founder and President of BIG On Green, an organization committed to promoting environmentally conscious practices in the workplace.
A former Assistant Executive Director of a charity with twenty years of non-profit experience, Rosemarie discovered a love for environmental activism while working in the Jane and Finch community. Her interaction with local residents led her to realize that many of them had environmental concerns that were routinely unaddressed. For the next few years, Rosemarie worked through the community to advocate for better environmental stewardship, and was recognized with a number of local awards. Her enthusiasm also led her to enroll in a graduate program at York, where she is currently a Master’s Candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.
To help advance her goals, Rosemarie was able to obtain financing from ACCESS on two occasions. Today, BIG On Green works with non-profit organizations and corporate partners to promote responsible environmentalism create green jobs and develop and implement a “green agenda.” In the next few years, Rosemarie expects that BIG On Green will contribute to a cultural change in the way organizations do business and community relations. (From ACCESS' 2013 Annual Report)

Sahlaa Morris of A Better PlaceSahlaa Morris is the founder of A Better Place, a company offering health and wellbeing services. A Better Place aims to provide a safe, nurturing environment dedicated to bettering the lives of people through interconnectedness of the body and mind. Sahlaa has developed a multitude of fully integrated services over the past 15 years to offer highly customizable workshops and approaches to helping people reach their needs and goals.
Sahlaa came to realize the power of her services after going through a period of personal health issues and raising her two children with special needs. These life experiences have helped her not only discover her passion, but have also motivated her to help others who can truly benefit from her services. Sahlaa found the use of yoga and meditation as a way to cope with stress and fatigue, and began her business by teaching these techniques. This has since grown into a full series of integrated service offerings.
Sahlaa is constantly looking to improve and learn from her business and her clients. She actively seeks out and attends business development workshops and has learned to customize her offerings to meet the needs of her consumers. ACCESS is happy to have connected Sahlaa with a network of advisors and mentorship support to support both her professional and personal endeavors. (From ACCESS' 2013 Annual Report)

Tamara Graham of TLG InteriorsTamara Graham is the owner of TLG Interiors, a Toronto-Based interior decorating company.
Launched two years ago after her graduation from Georgian College, TLG Interiors combined Tamara’s interest in feng shui decorating methods with her interest in colour psychology, making her designs as much about evoking sentiments as about creating a pleasing aesthetic.
Prior to launching TLG, Tamara bounced around other careers before enrolling in Georgian College where she graduated with a diploma in Interior Decorating. Shortly after, she took courses at the Toronto Business Development Centre, completing her program with the top-ranked business plan.
Tamara managed to parlay her efforts at the TBDC into a spot at the Toronto Women’s Expo along with a loan from ACCESS, which gave her an opportunity to showcase her work and develop a client base. Today, Tamara manages a successful business with an international roster of clients, which has Taken her as far as Mexico for meetings. (From ACCESS' 2013 Annual Report)

Sahlaa Morris of A Better PlaceLuisa Mora is the proud owner of Eva Angelina Spa, anesthetics studio in Bloorwest Village that offers a full range of esthetic services. Having emigrated from Columbia 20 years ago with her husband, she worked as an esthetician for several years for various companies in Toronto. Although she loved the work, she wanted something more for her and her family. She had the idea of opening her own spa and enrolled in a YMCA Self-Employment Course. With the help of her husband who completed all renovations for her Roman themed sanctuary, and ACCESS who provided her a loan for equipment and marketing materials, she launched Eva Angelina Spa in the trendy Bloorwest Village area. She has now expanded her operations to employ two people. Always looking to improve her business, this year Luisa started working with an ACCESS mentor to help her improve her accounting practices, an idea Luisa had suggested after attending an ACCESS workshop on that topic. Luisa is proud of her achievements and hopeful about the future of her business.

Joanna Eaton of NewbieKneesJoanna Eaton is the founder and owner of NewbieKnees, a baby kneepad business based in Toronto. After venturing into the technology sector, equipped with a Bachelor’s Degree in Technology, she decided to take an entirely different route and focus on building her own business venture. Her inspiration came from having her first daughter. As a young mother, she put her creativity skills to the test in creating a pair of baby kneepads to alleviate her daughter’s sore red knees as she crawled. This was the first prototype of what would become NewbieKnees. As a single stay-at-home mother, she found difficulty being a strong candidate for business start-up loans. Access provided her with the opportunity to make her business venture a reality and also provided her with a number of networking and business opportunities.
“Access provides not just loans, but also a community of small business and people who are willing to help.”
Joanna received her first loan in 2011, after connecting with the ACCESS program director and finalizing her business plan and cash flow statements. Getting the loan enabled her to start manufacturing her product right away. Shortly after being approved for her loan, she was introduced to an ACCESS mentor to help her with outsourcing and sales. Being new to the business sector she greatly appreciated this help as it helped her build her business. (From ACCESS' 2012 Annual Report)

Collette Thorpe of Yunaland DaycareCollette Thorpe is the founder and owner of Yunaland Inc – a day care and drop in play center that has a fantasy-based theme. Thorpe started her career as an ECE childcare provider, and then moved into the financial sector for many years. She took two years off to stay home with her young son, and then realized that she loved caring for children – her original passion.
"Access to credit is so important for entrepreneurs – you are providing a great service when it’s needed most."

After expanding to care for her two-year old son and two other children for another year, she set out to found a day-care. She now employs three staff and has 15 children in regular attendance. Located in Brampton, she also offers party space, an after school program and a weekend drop-in-and-play program where parents can bring their kids and play with them there or watch them play, on a break from weekend errands.
Collette believes that children learn and grow through play. As she did with her son, she engages children in fantasy themed games, and has created a fun environment, including a dark forest and a castle, which encourages the children to use their imaginations. Her loan from ACCESS helped her purchase the material needed to build the castle and pay for marketing initiatives.
Collette is living the life she imagined many years ago when she studied childhood education after college and ACCESS is proud to be able to support her in this journey. (From ACCESS' 2012 Annual Report)

Leah Wilson of OrgadryLeah Wilson is the president of Orgadry, an organic-based line of dry fit exercise undergarments. Her product line focuses on the body’s specific measurements, in order to give men and women of every shape the ability to feel great and stay fit, while staying green from head to toe. Her products have been established in the environmentally forward markets of Alberta and British Columbia, but needed the extra boost to make a mark in the quick streets of Toronto.
And that’s where ACCESS came in. Where banks were unable to lend to this business without any capital assets, ACCESS became the right fit for this ambitious designer. “It was the little things that we could put the money towards that could make the difference.” Says Wilson, attributing her microloan to the crucial branding elements that assisted in making her Toronto dream a reality. “We bought a new heat transfer machine, posters for the store and our measuring tapes, which means our brand is stronger.” As Leah continues to expand her product line and customer base, her hope is to see the product line one day sold through a national retailer. (From ACCESS' 2010 Annual Report)

Iftekhar Khan of Décor SpectrumIftekhar Khan is the owner of Décor Spectrum, an import company that carries a large variety of beautifully handcrafted animal décor products. With a wide range of items that vary from stools, tabletops, vases and even wall hangings, Iftekhar’s artistic product line brings an authentic cultural-flair to any household. Iftekhar prides himself on using one hundred percent leather on the exterior of his product line, further emphasizing the natural quality of his products to the discerning consumer. He had found an exotic product and wanted to bring it to Canada. Getting started in this competitive market found Iftekhar needed help to bring in his shipments of inventory, which is where ACCESS comes in the picture.
“Without ACCESS, my business would be nothing,” declares Iftekhar, as his micro loan was what gave him the support necessary to purchase inventory and participate in his first home show. While the commercial bank Iftekhar had approached was apprehensive about his business model, ACCESS saw the potential in this savvy entrepreneur, who had already overcome many barriers to do what he wanted most. “I can be with my family. That’s the number one thing,” says Iftekhar when asked about why he likes being an entrepreneur. With more unique products on the way, as well as the ability to respond to custom and large orders, Iftekhar hopes for his one-of-a-kind products to mark their territory in the expanding kingdom of home furnishings. (From ACCESS' 2010 Annual Report)