back to all stories

back to filtered results

Clara and Cesarfina

Colombian Sisters Use PPP Loans from South Carolina CDFI to Keep Alterations Stores Open

Financial and Social Impact

  • 2 woman- and immigrant-owned businesses able to keep doors open through pandemic
  • 605 PPP loans made by CommunityWorks, totaling more than $8.9 million

Client: Clara Hoyos, owner of Clara’s Alterations, and Cesarfina Cardona, owner of Lyman Alterations
Client locations: Greer and Lyman, SC
CDFI: CommunityWorks
CDFI service area: South Carolina
CDFI services provided: Financing and technical assistance, with support from the Grow with Google Small Business Fund and Google.org Grant Program

Raised in Colombia, sisters Clara Hoyos and Cesarfina Cardona share a bond beyond family ties. They’ve been serving South Carolina’s Upstate as seamstresses through their local alterations stores for nearly two decades. Cesarfina put her lifelong skills to work by opening Lyman Alterations 18 years ago. Meanwhile, Clara studied interior decorating and worked as a TV personality in Colombia until she moved to the U.S. ten years ago and opened Clara’s Alterations.

Because much of their work comes from altering dresses and formal wear for events, such as proms and weddings, the pandemic created unique challenges for the women. Cesarfina tried applying for a PPP loan online but needed assistance navigating the process. Thankfully, she found CommunityWorks, where she also referred her sister. Both sisters received a PPP loan from CommunityWorks, which allowed them to keep their doors open. Since receiving PPP loans, they have also received ongoing business coaching as clients of the CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center.

Clara and Cesarfina’s trade provides more than income. It builds on a foundation of hard work laid by their family. Their pride in their business is evident from the way each customer is greeted with a smile, a “let’s fix-it” attitude, and perhaps, if you’re lucky, a piece of pandebono — homemade Colombian cheese bread.

“I learned how to do alterations from my mother,” shared Cesarfina. “She taught me when I was 13 years old. She said, ‘You can reach the pedals, sit down and learn.’”


Looking for a community development financial institution (CDFI) in your region?

Check out OFN’s CDFI locator.