Igor and his wife Iryna immigrated from Ukraine and had only been in Spokane for less than two years when a case worker at World Relief referred them to SNAP for help in starting a business. That May, Igor pitched his idea to SNAP, and that November, Cedar Coffee held its soft open.
“To me, my business is absolutely everything,” says Igor. “It’s not just business for me. It’s my breath My life. I’m happy to go to work each day.”
SNAP helped to make Igor’s dream -his everything- possible. And now, Igor is using his success to give back to the international community. Through SNAP Financial Access, Igor and Iryna were able to receive a loan, financing, renovation support, connection to contractors. Because Igor and Iryna were new immigrants, they didn’t have the type of experience, documentation, and finances that traditional lending institutions need to see in order to receive lending and support. However, as a Certified Financial Development Institution (CDFI), SNAP Financial Access has more flexibility than traditional financial institutions in its ability to take lending risks. In the case of Cedar Coffee, SNAP Financial Access was able to consider drive, passion, demonstrable business acumen, and other intangibles to determine that Igor and Iryna’s business would be a worthwhile investment.
They were right. Although Igor concedes that the first year was “very difficult,” Cedar Coffee is now a resounding success. Cedar Coffee is now looking to be among the 80% of SNAP-supported small businesses that are still open after five years.
Part of Cedar Coffee’s success could be attributed to the ongoing technical support possible through SNAP. Most of its success, however, is due to Igor’s clear business acumen and ardent eye for quality control.
“I am a very picky man,” laughs Igor. “Chai latte, for example, I didn’t like, so my wife and I make our own Chai to my taste.”
Spokane clearly took to Igor’s taste. Igor expresses that Spokane is the perfect city to him- a big family where everyone is really friendly. The community Igor loves has not only provided steady business since he opened Cedar Coffee in 2018, but they also came out in aces to support a cause near and dear to Igor and Iryna’s heart: Ukraine.
When the assault on Ukraine began this year, Igor and Iryna felt compelled to support their home country. They still have family there. After dedicating certain days’ profits to Ukraine donations, Igor was able to donate over $50,000 to support Ukraine. Of the funds raise, they dedicated $35,000 to Ukraine’s army and $15,000 to medicine in Ukraine (through Gonzaga University).
“America is the perfect country for me,” says Igor. “And Ukraine is the same, with its freedom and Democracy.”
Igor later added, “The war must be finished. In 2022, with America, we WIN.”
Does learning this help you feel compelled to invest in SNAP as we continue to build up our community’s future?
Cedar Coffee has been a huge win for Spokane, and the broader community. As a Community Action Agency, SNAP had the unique ability to help Igor and Iryna get their business off the ground. Watch below to see Igor and Iryna’s process of starting their business with the help of SNAP: