July 26, 2019
A Kenyan immigrant, Elijah Omara Riechi came to the United States to pursue a college education. After completing his degree, Omara worked at a local nonprofit organization as a job counselor for people with disabilities. Through his work, he quickly began to see the need in his community for reliable transportation services for those with disabilities.
With the strong desire to make a difference, Omara founded Keon Enterprises, which provides transportation services to the disabled in low-income communities in Harrisburg, PA. Initially, Omara had to rely on credit cards and personal savings to fund the purchase of vehicles, which limited his options to purchasing less reliable, used vehicles. He also tried traditional bank loans, but he could not meet the credit requirements.
In search of other options, Omara attended a presentation by a lender from Community First Fund on how to obtain a loan, which ultimately opened the door to financing from the CDFI. Starting with a $3,280 loan in July 2012, Omara has received more than $130,000 in financing from Community First Fund. According to Omara, Community First Fund “played a large role in the growth of the business.”
Community First Fund’s most recent loan of $75,000 to Keon Enterprises in 2017 included a line of credit made with funds from the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital program. The funds he received have gone toward the purchase of additional vehicles to support the continued success and growth of Omara’s business, including expansion into a new market area.
Community First Fund’s longer term financing options have enabled Omara to purchase more reliable, newer vehicles to drive the growth of his business, which has in turn generated higher consumer demand and allowed him to bring on new staff. Keon Enterprises is now looking to continue its expansion into new counties and invest in a maintenance center to service the fleet.
With the help of Community First Fund, Keon Enterprises is able to provide a much-needed service to a low-income community. The business currently employs 16 full-time and 8 part-time employees, several having previously struggled with unemployment for a significant period of time.
Omara says his greatest satisfaction is that Keon Enterprises has made it possible for over 130 individuals with intellectual disabilities to obtain competitive employment in their community by providing them with reliable transportation to and from work.