Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Microfinance takes to the streets

With an update on continuing developments in Microfinance, here's Jack!

Just before Christmas break, we wrapped up MPI Ecuador’s first small business course. Our final class will stand out as one of my favorite moments of the past 7 months. Each of the students shared their feelings as entrepreneurs and how intimately proud they have been of their work of running their own businesses. Even better, our students discussed in detail how our course motivated them to make some concrete improvements to their businesses. The final moments of this class gave me a convicting reaffirmation of the MPI’s capacity to truly empower others.

Several weeks ago, we brought on a fantastic new addition to the MPI team: Carlos Rodriguez, a finance student from Quito, is now helping out at our centro and is helping us start an exciting new element of our Business Development program. Together, Carlos and I are now providing consulting services to several businesses in our area. This past Saturday we worked with our first two clients.

We started in Sangolquí working with a small business that sells feed and other supplies for livestock and pets. This family-owned business demonstrated to us that they have had no shortage of clientele, but they have been struggling to make income cover their costs. Carlos and I are currently in the process of helping them re-organize their inventory system so they can get a better grasp of their daily and monthly finances.

After some time in Sangolquí we went back to Rumiloma to work with a small group of women who manage their own street-food stand. Every Saturday, these women sell plates of barbeque chicken and roasted potatoes. We made a brief summary of their finances, and discovered that despite their hard work, their chicken dishes have been too costly to turn a profit. After comparing their expenses from cooking up barbeque chicken with what they would be earning if they switched to salchipapas (french fries and hot dogs, an extremely common street-food option), they would be making significantly more money. These women were excited, albeit flabbergasted, about the prospect of finally making some money on their Saturday afternoons.

With a stimulating and successful day behind us, Carlos and I are thrilled with the potential impact we can have by personally working with businesses in the area. It’s amazing what a calculator and some common sense can do to completely jump-start someone’s livelihood. 

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