Solana Beach entrepreneur ready for new growth after business leadership program

Although his business has been a staple of Solana Beach for several years, John Stein’s company is now on the fast track to an even brighter future.

As the owner of Kirei USA, Stein was recently selected to participate in Accion Fast Track, a new business leadership program offered by global nonprofit organization Accion International.

“The program gives our clients access to additional support, advice and resources so that they can meet their growth goals,” said Valery Belloso, chief business development and strategy officer for Accion’s San Diego office.

With a background in marketing, Stein shifted careers 13 years ago when he founded Kirei USA in 2002. “Kirei,” which means “beautiful” and “clean” in Japanese, offers interior design materials that are manufactured from renewable or reclaimed agricultural byproducts and low- or no-added-formaldehyde adhesives.

“It’s really amazing to see what people do with our raw materials,” said Stein, whose Kirei boards were used for the counters in Solana Beach City Hall. “When I walk into spaces that someone has designed using our products and I see what they’ve done, it’s just incredible.”

What started out of a small garage on North Helix Avenue has grown into a successful business in the heart of the Cedros Design District. But Stein said he couldn’t have done it without the help of Accion, an international nonprofit microlending organization.

“It’s very difficult for small businesses to get financing,” he said. “When you can’t get a loan for your small business, Accion is there.”

Stein has been a client of Accion for about a decade. To advance his business, he started with a small loan and then worked his way up to a $35,000 loan, which was the organization’s maximum loan at the time. Accion now offers loans up to $75,000.

Looking to grow his company, Stein was eager to participate in Accion’s new Fast Track program.

Supported by Capital One and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the program provides a select group of Accion loan clients with intensive business training and coaching as well as individual mentoring to set their businesses on a path to growth.

“It’s been really valuable,” Stein said. “They’ve given us intellectual capital to go with the financial capital that they’ve given us.”

Only 28 business owners from across the country, including eight from the San Diego area, were selected for the program.

“John’s one of the easiest clients I’ve worked with, based on his commitment to his business and organizational skills,” said Maria Montano, senior loan officer with Accion.

Added Belloso, “John is very proactive, very committed to his business and very organized when it comes to his financials and his record keeping. That’s a really strong skill set that any successful entrepreneur needs to have.”

The free program kicked off in June with a two-day introduction and networking session in Chicago. Since then, business owners have developed personal and professional growth plans.

The coaching curriculum includes several classes on personal foundation, financials, marketing fundamentals and organizational strategy. Participants are also paired with mentors who will provide them with subject matter expertise in areas where they are facing the greatest barriers to growth.

The program will culminate with a graduation ceremony in February 2016 in New York City, where participants will share what they have learned and how their businesses have grown.

“I want to be a better leader,” Stein said. “I want to set a goal, articulate it to the group and set them free so they can help guide us to where we want to be.”

For more about Kirei USA, visit www.kireiusa.com.

For more about Accion International, visit www.accion.org.


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