Erica Molina was standing where she usually stands at lunchtime, in the middle of her 116 square feet — an irregularly shaped booth in theEssex Street Market on the Lower East Side. She was talking about the $5,000 loan that had allowed her to buy the counter she was leaning on and the used refrigerator behind her when a delivery arrived.
It was a box marked “electric griddle.”
That, too. “For quesadillas,” she explained.
Ms. Molina and her business partner, Jesse Kramer, turned to an unconventional source for the money to keep their Brooklyn Taco Company food stand afloat last year: Accion East, an arm of a nonprofit microlender that specializes in small loans to entrepreneurs who, like Ms. Molina and Mr. Kramer, have not been in business long.
Microlending, pioneered by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh, has surged in the United States in recent years. As credit markets seized up and the recession deepened — and as credit card companies tightened their rules, because many startups add substantial balances on the owners’ credit cards — microlenders provided cash infusions to keep small businesses from going under. Gina Harman, the chief executive of Accion, the US Network, which is the parent of Accion East, said the typical loan totaled $7,000.