When James Webb paints a home or an office, people are transformed—and not just those who live or work there.  “People respond to colors,” says James, the owner of A Stroke of Genius Painting Company. “Colors have an emotional effect on people. They create different environments.”

While A Stroke of Genius serves commercial and residential clients spanning all of Chicago, it has made a point of employing people from lower-income areas where jobs tend to be scarce. “For us it’s about being responsible for the communities we work in,” James says. “We look for the best and the brightest in those neighborhoods, train them, and put them to work.”

A Stroke of Genius has increased its revenues five-fold since it opened in 2009. James attributes that success to hard work and scrupulous customer service. But perhaps the greatest difference-maker is the backing of lenders like Accion, he says, which provided the company with a $15,000 loan in 2014, following $5,000 in funding in 2011.

Now, James is focused on expanding his business to include a training program on both the technical aspects of the painting trade and the financial and mangerial savvy needed to operate a business.

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