Illustrations by Jonny Ruzzo for TIME (Source Photos: Courtesy Esusu Inc)

Wemimo Abbey’s and Samir Goel’s families faced many obstacles after immigrating to the U.S., including limited access to credit. Those challenges helped inspire a smart idea to help others in similar straits. In 2018, the pair founded Esusu, which helps people build credit in America by reporting tenants’ on-time rent payments to credit bureaus.

Esusu has helped over 50,000 people establish credit scores, the company says. These records are a lifeline that can be used to buy cars, access mortgages, and even enroll in school. For those who fall behind on their rent, missed payments aren’t reported, and Esusu also offers zero-interest loans to struggling families through a partnership with the charity Stable Home Fund.

The company has already reached a billion-dollar valuation, but the founders hope to expand its financial services even further and to help reduce the racial wealth gap. “Ultimately, we want people to be able to have financial wellness and create wealth in their own communities,” Goel says.

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