Karen Maxwell grew up in her mother’s sewing room in Panama. She remembers tracing patterns on the floor and listening to the comforting sounds of her mother hemming and mending the family’s clothing. Years later, her own talents found a launchpad in her home economics class, and then after that, at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she took courses in fashion design. She supported her sewing habit by winning dance contests – wearing her own vibrant creations, of course. Everyone told her she should sell her work, but turning her hobby into a business was intimidating. That’s why she reached out to the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.

Maxwell signed up for the Loan Fund’s 8-Week Business Planning Course. Upon graduation, she began renting an office in Loan Fund’s Orange Street Incubator. In addition to having a dedicated studio space for her business, Kema’s Kreations, she was able to access technical assistance and resources right down the hall. “I love the community atmosphere and support at the 255 Orange Street Incubator,” says Maxwell.

While Maxwell’s passion is designing and sewing, running a business requires a much broader focus. She is learning about pricing, marketing, manufacturing and how to successfully negotiate contracts.

“The Community Loan Fund provided the platform that I needed to write my business plan. They are teaching me how to grow a sustainable business. Their ongoing technical assistance is helping me identify the resources that I need to take my business to the next level,” says Maxwell. Her designs and business acumen have already taken Maxwell from Albany to runway, exhibiting her bags and clothing as part of Harlem Fashion week. And with her talent and skill, that’s just the beginning.