African Icon: Meet Arlo Washington Who Went From Cutting Hair To Building First Black-Owned Bank In US’ Arkansas

African Icon: Meet Arlo Washington Who Went From Cutting Hair To Building First Black-Owned Bank In US’ Arkansas

By Spy Uganda

At a very young age, Arlo Washington assumed responsibility for his younger siblings following the demise of his mother when he was only 17. He relocated from the city of Little Rock to New York, where he worked as a fashion model and barber at age 19.

Washington later returned to his hometown to attend college and used his student loan to launch his first barbershop. Almost a decade later, he has seven (7) more barbershops, employing almost 30 people in addition to a barber college.

“I started cutting hair when I was 19 years old,” he told Kark. “I barbered for two years and then I opened my own barbershop. “

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According to Washington, he had no financial education when he first applied for a student loan. He learned about finance through his entrepreneurial ventures, but he would later discover that there are more people like him without any basic financial education.

He noticed this when scores of people trooped to Barber College seeking loans when the last Payday shop lending storefront in Arkansas closed for business. Using the $1,000 monthly savings he set aside as profit from his barber college, he offered low-interest, small-dollar loans to people.

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The ‘table-top” loan disbursement scheme turned into the People Trust Community Loan Fund. This later inspired him to open a credit union that allows loan fund customers to open savings accounts.

He later founded the People Trust Community Federal Credit Union. In 2022, it became just one of the four (4) new credit unions chartered in the US. It offers a full-service credit union in North Little Rock, Arkansas, that provides access to capital to low and moderate-income communities. Also, the organization has over 5,000 customers and has provided loans for over 2,600 small businesses.

People Trust will challenge the disparity of access to financial services for minorities. One of its major goals is to address and eliminate economic barriers by making financial opportunities easily accessible to underserved and underbanked individuals.”When we provide equal access to minorities for financial services, we ultimately are empowering our entire community.” Washington said.

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At the grand launch of People Trust, he offered the first 100 people opening an account with a $100 deposit. The credit union will provide services to customers such as new and used auto loans, personal loans, checking and savings accounts, credit cards, Certificates of Deposits (CDs), and more.

In a press statement, People Trust said its goal is to close the racial gap of economic inequality in underserved communities and overlooked populations who face barriers at traditional financial institutions.

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