Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Kahindo Mateene


New York, New York

“Ascendus came in and taught me how to clean up my credit and the steps I needed to take to qualify for a larger loan.”

Fighting For Equality and Education Through Her Small Business

“When I first moved to America, I had crazy questions asked about where I was from like ‘did you live in trees, did you even wear clothes?’ There was a lack of awareness, and I wanted to educate others on the positive stories of Africa.”

Kahindo moved from The Congo with a suitcase full of traditional African fashion. She was proud to wear the clothes that represented her culture, but others did not have the same enthusiasm. “I was only seventeen, and people would stare at me. They thought I was wearing a costume.” Although Kahindo ended up studying business, she found her passion in fashion when she saw it as an educational opportunity. “I named each design after different themes, countries, ethnic groups, and locations in Africa – so people could understand how diverse and beautiful the continent really is.”


However, going back to school for fashion was expensive, and deferred student loans caused a negative impact on Kahindo’s credit score, blocking her from getting a traditional loan. “When the pandemic came around, I saw the disparities firsthand for Black owned businesses. Opportunities were not trickling down, I did not have access to capital, and small brands like mine were unrecognizable because we did not have the marketing.”

Kahindo needed the funding to invest in a marketing campaign and to move her business to an online marketplace. When she could not qualify for a traditional loan because of her credit score, she turned to Ascendus and was able to qualify for the Get Ready Line of Credit Program – an Ascendus product specifically designed to help Black and African American small business owners improve their credit. “Neysa has been amazing, Ascendus came in and taught me how to clean up my credit and the steps I needed to take to qualify for a larger loan.”


Today, Kahindo’s brand is flourishing online, and through it she is making a social impact by providing employment and educational opportunities to her community. “The Congo is a paternalistic society. My dad was one of the only fathers to encourage education for his daughters. He used education to get himself out of poverty and knew the doors that would open for us if we went to school.”

The lessons Kahindo’s father taught her stayed with her, and it is what drove her to create a sustainable social impact with her brand. “Aid does not always trickle down to the individual. I have seen firsthand that jobs and job opportunities is what people want.” Because of this, everyone who works with Kahindo’s brand, from those who help design the clothes to those who physically make them, are women, including refugees in Africa. “Without my father to encourage my education, I could have easily been one of the women back home with no opportunities. Education impacts someone’s life and can impact a whole community. Community is especially important to me. I am creating sustainable jobs with fair wages, so these women can send their kids to school and become financially independent.”

To learn more about Kahindo, visit:

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