Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Sawandi Cassell


Chelsea, Massachusetts

“The loan was exactly what I needed.” –Sawandi Cassell

Realizing an Urgent Need

When Sawandi needed to build a website for his father, he realized he didn’t know where to begin. He was startled to discover how high the prices were at most web-design firms. When his cousin, a small business owner, approached him with a similar request and mentioned he could only spend a fraction of the typical price, Sawandi took matters into his own hands. “It took me about two weeks of research and trial and error before I was able build him a complete website on my own.” This experience made Sawandi realize just how expansive this unmet need really was. “I couldn’t imagine how many small businesses there were who needed a web presence but couldn’t afford it. I realized I had this opportunity to provide a valuable product to people I can relate to, people who really needed it, at an affordable price. That’s how my business was born.”

With his business, Illuminates, Sawandi not only creates websites, graphic design, and internet marketing for his clients but provides them with training to maintain the website on their own. “I want to empower them so that they’ll have a good experience and share their positive experience with others.” He also prioritizes working with the local immigrant small business community, many of whom are non-native English speakers who have been taken advantage of financially as a result. “Of those I work within certain communities, about half have previously paid for a service and never had it delivered.” Sawandi creates plans that prioritize building trust with his clients.

An in-Demand Service

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to close and a need for eCommerce grew, Sawandi saw an increased interest in his services but a decrease in customers’ abilities to afford them. “Now everyone’s rushing to get online but they have even less available funds to do that.” Always prioritizing his clients, Sawandi has offered alternative forms of payment in response. “If it’s a business that I patronize, for instance, I have let them pay off their balance as a gift certificate.” Yet to continue serving his community, Sawandi knew he needed financial support. “I called Ascendus to discuss my options. I had received my first loan in 2017 when I was just starting, and the experience was so amazing that I wanted to reapply.” Sawandi applied for and received a second loan after having a very positive conversation with his loan consultant. “You can tell when someone is passionate about their profession and helping their customers.”

Making Waves

The impact of Sawandi’s loan has had a ripple effect. “The loan was exactly what I needed. At the time, I was working with three restaurants who were struggling to pay me. I was able to get all of their websites up before being compensated and they were super grateful for it. I’m just happy to help people and get them back to some kind of normalcy.” As the demand for eCommerce continues to grow, Sawandi intends to continue expanding his services. “I plan to grow my customer base in new regions, wherever there are small businesses that need us, and I feel like there’s many out there.”

sign up for our newsletters

Skip to content