Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Azra Khalfan

Plaques by Azra
Signs and Lucite Products

Queens, New York

“Everything was perfect. I learned so much from my volunteers.” –Azra

What does a strong woman look like? How do you honor your parents’ legacy? What does it mean to succeed? Watch the video to hear Azra’s story and learn about her business, Plaques by Azra.

It has been a momentous two years for Azra. She’s attended a Tory Burch coaching event and talked with Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google, she’s participated in American Express OPEN for Women‘s CEO Bootcamp, was selected to be in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, and participated in Ascendus’ MicroConsulting Program. All of this started with an Ascendus microloan to purchase equipment for her awards manufacturing business.

Azra’s business began the day she was born. Her father immigrated to Elmhurst, Queens from Tanzania with the dream of building a better life for his family. Shortly after Azra was born, he launched Plaques by Azra.And when Azra was old enough, she jumped at the opportunity to help her father manage the business.

Azra has loved growing her father’s business and is fulfilled by helping her customers select the perfect recognition. The business has provided for her parents, herself and even her children. However, the past few years have been particularly difficult for the awards manufacturing business. When the economy is suffering, corporations typically cut signage, awards, and plaques from their budget. In addition to the fluctuation of the economy, Plaques by Azra has battled with a changing demographic in the neighborhood that is not quite as interested in purchasing signage or awards.

When Azra and her parents turned to Ascendus for a loan to purchase new equipment, she didn’t expect much help beyond the loan. Yet, her loan officer introduced Azra to the Tory Burch Foundation, which offers mentoring resources to female entrepreneurs. Since then, Azra has participated in a variety of business mentoring opportunities that have helped her expand her business, hire more staff and increase her confidence. If I had the confidence I have now when I first started my business, I would have been much further along. I was holding myself back.

Last October, Azra participated in Ascendus’ MicroConsulting Program. She worked with marketing experts from Ascendus’ volunteer network to create an online marketing strategy and develop her website. Azra says of the experience, “Everything was perfect. I learned so much from my volunteers.” An Ascendus microloan helped Plaques by Azra survive, but it was the financial education and business development opportunities that helped Azra, personally and professionally, grow.

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