Moctar arrived to NYC from his native village in Mali, a village of about 30 families in West Africa, where winter rarely dips below 75 degrees. “It was very difficult,” recalls Moctar, thinking about his first few months in the United States during the dead of winter. He spoke little English, had little money and no winter clothes. Undeterred, he decided to make the best of a bad winter, and began selling warm hats and scarves as a street vendor.
Business was hard. His fabrics were unique, but he struggled to make ends meet. There was a lot of competition, and very little profit. Still, Moctar was persistent. He saved $5 and $10 at a time. Eventually, he was able to save a few thousand dollars and open Yara African Fabrics, a two branch business consisting of a warehouse in the Bronx selling wholesale African fabrics and a retail shop located in Harlem.
“It’s amazing to see from the beginning,” says Moctar. “The fabric is woven from 100 percent cotton and dyed in the mud, hence the name, ‘mud cloth.’” Moctar’s shop in Harlem thrived. Immigrants from Mali and elsewhere in Africa from the neighborhood leapt at the chance to buy fabric that reminded them of home.
It was not only his neighborhood that noticed the fabric. American Apparel and Cynthia Rowley began to turn to him. Moctar was finally on the verge of success. He desperately needed to purchase inventory and samples, but his credit was too limited to receive traditional financing.
“My Accion loan helped me a lot. It opened doors for me. It was my first loan,” recalls Moctar. Accion helped Moctar build his credit and grow his business. With a $7,000 loan, Moctar has expanded his selection, and now sells his fabrics wholesale nationwide through his website and trade shows.