Jessica George via Crowdrise
September 30, 2011
EVENT DATE: Nov 05, 2011
My apologies for the delay in getting this out, but life has been a whirlwind these past few weeks! Also, this update is a bit longwinded, so feel free to skip to the end if you just want to hear about our winners!
The great news is that in the end, the project was a total success! That being said, there were definitely moments where I feared this might not be the case. However, I was given some very wise advice from a Bankers Without Boarders representative, which was, ‘Keep it up, and don’t worry. In microfinance you learn as you go.’ Seems simple enough, but that quickly became my mantra throughout the project. Keep it up, and don’t worry, you will learn as you go.
This advice became very applicable the very first meeting we attempted to have back in October. I had recruited eight volunteers to take the three hour bus to Coparaque, including two representatives from a microfinance bank in Arequipa, only to learn upon arrival that the meeting conflicted with the Festival of Corn. In other words, the entire town was drunk all day, and we did not get a single person in our audience. Information I could have used…ahead of time. Turned into a great night in Coparaque, but was more than a little discouraging in terms of my goals and objectives for this project. Lesson #1, Peruvians love to answer questions in the affirmative whether they know it to be true or not. This should be remembered when asking for directions, and as I learned the hard way, when asking if a specific date would be good for a presentation on business development.
BUT, after a quick regroup and a few alterations to my own schedule, I returned to Coparaque the very next weekend, this time with only one volunteer in tow. Together we presented the idea of a business plan to a group of five small business owners, and despite the small audience, walked away feeling like a million bucks. The presentation prompted some insightful questions, and it quickly became apparent that we were presenting new, relevant, ideas to the audience. We left it with them that they had two weeks to prepare their business plans, and I would return with my friend from the MFI in Arequipa to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of micro loans.
Saturday, Nov 5th was our final meeting, and we had twelve entrepreneurs in the audience. I tell you what, though. Peruvians love to keep you on your toes. The meeting was set to start at 6pm, so naturally we told everyone it started at 5pm. People didn’t show up until closer to 7:15pm. I could barely look Richard, my MFI rep, in the eyes, as this would have been the SECOND time I had convinced him to come to Coparaque swearing I needed his help, only to find we were missing an audience. Alas, with an extra announcement over the loudspeaker in the main square emphasizing the FREE MONEY we were giving out, slowly but surely, people began to trickle in. Phew!
Richard, my MFI rep, made a fantastic presentation on the process of getting a micro loan, and the hidden dangers associated. I can’t emphasis enough how lucky I was to get him on board, and to think he even came BACK after the disaster that was the Festival of Corn! I then gave another quick run through on what we were looking for in our contest for the most developed business plan, and was able to meet one on one with several of the interested entrepreneurs. We only received five submissions for the contest, but I suspect that was because we never announced the amount of money that was at stake. There were several reasons for this, but mostly I just didn’t want to cause any hard feelings between the contestants. The point of this project was never the money, but instead to ensure all participants complete the training with a solid plan for the future of their business.
The first prize of $500 went to a family that owns a home-stay hostel business in town. They plan on using the money to help build a second story on their house, and looking at their plan, it is really amazing how far this S/.1500 will get them towards that dream. To give you an idea, not one of the businesses I worked with pulled in more than S./ 1000 a month. We were lucky in that the first prize was an obvious winner. The Chocolate family had a very detailed budget, realistic goals for their future, and included objectives for the next 6 months, three years, and thirty years.
The winner of our second prize, $250, was a little more difficult to decide upon as there were three different submissions with different strengths and very similar weaknesses. We ended up deciding that Hugo, the town’s bread maker, deserved the second prize. He was lacking some detail in his budget, but he had the most clear short and long term goals, and plans to use the prize money to buy an industrial sized mixer for his bread business. I did not get to spend as much time with Hugo during my time in Coparaque, but his wife (who evidentially was not aware Hugo had even entered the contest) was very surprised (read: confused) and sweet when we stopped in the store to give them their reward money.
It is hard to believe we pulled it off. There were some ups and downs along the road, but in the end, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Peru is an amazing country, and the people as a whole are unabashedly warm, insanely hard working, and for the most part… shorter then me. ; )
I want to thank you all again for your support throughout this project. I only wish the pictures did justice to the town itself, and the incredible community that lives there. I already miss Coparaque, and hope to return someday ‘soon.’ Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, or just want to hear more about my time in Peru!
When I moved to Peru, I knew they had one of the most developed microfinance industries in the world, but I had no idea how little effort they put into educating their micro-borrowers. Over the past two years I've spent a lot of time listening to leaders in the microfinance industry discuss the dangers of giving loans to borrowers who do not understand the interest rates, or have a plan for how to repay them. It is with this in mind that I have decided to offer (with the support of German non-profit, Intiwawa) a free business development program to the current and potential micro-borrowers of Coparaque, Peru. And it is with this in mind that I ask for your help.
In Peru, like in most places I´ve lived (Read: ALL places), getting people to make changes to their daily routines and spending habits is difficult. And getting people to write down a detailed financial plan is close to impossible, which is why I am hoping to add some incentive ($$!) to think about the topics discussed in our seminars, and encourage the group to put serious thought into their business proposals.
How much incentive ($$!) are we talking? Well, as you might imagine, money goes a bit farther in Peru, and with relatively small amounts of money, we can offer some relatively large financial opportunities to these entrepreneurs.. My goal is to raise enough money to support the following:
--$300: First Place (Most thorough, realistic, business plan)
--$100: 2nd Place (in short...The Runner Up)
--$100: To pay for food, accommodation, and bus tickets of volunteer Economics Majors from local University in AQP—I will be depending heavily on their help during our small group work and for help with translating questions for me when my Spanish 'fluency' fails me
--Any extra money raised will go to future Intiwawa volunteers that take the initiative to develop new projects, using their own personal strengths, to help the people of Peru.
$500 is a lofty goal, but an achievable one (with your help!). Okay, that is my pitch. If you have any questions/suggestions/critiques, I´d love to talk to you about them. I am learning as I go down here, and this is an ever evolving project. What I lack in experience, I hope to make up for in the shameless pestering of experts in the industry and an overwhelming desire to do this thing right.
A million thank yous in advance for your support. A small amount of money can make a huge difference in helping these aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.