Despite its huge significance, the recently signed Peace Treaty in Colombia is not a remedy to all problems that affect the country. It is often assumed that schools, non-governmental organizations and other institutions will take on the responsibility of designing programs and establishing routes for improving the livelihoods of the most vulnerable. However, the experience of many is that any progress is hampered by the lack of vision of institutions and the business sector, the failure of local communities to harness business opportunities, and the limited capacity of organisations to deliver viable livelihood projects on the ground.
Small and start-up entrepreneurs cannot access the micro-loans needed to grow their businesses. This prevents them from making the necessary capital investment that could generate reserves, stabilise their income and grow their customer base. Additionally, the majority of existing microentrepreneurs lack any training in basic business concepts and often in basic life skills. This prevents them from carrying out any financial planning, damages their product pricing, purchase planning and marketing - resulting in cash flow problems and supply-demand imbalance. Whilst these concepts may seem complex, we have successfully carried out training models with a range of different groups, e.g. illiterate indigenous people.
Within our projects, we prefer a 'hands-on' to a 'handouts' approach. We believe that even small entrepreneurs benefit from knowing the real value of investment. Whilst we help the entrepreneurs with capital investment plans and projections, we do not hand out equipment, stock or commercial space. Our approach allows entrepreneurs to experience hands-on lessons in financial planning and forecasting. It nurtures the attachment of the entrepreneur to his or her business and yields confident businessmen and women.
What we plan to do next
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Interviews with Beneficiaries of our Responsible Bank
Manuel is a vendor of bags and accessories in Cartagena. He benefited from our business training sessions and microfinance project.
Alejandro is a vendor of fast food. As part of a group of entrepreneurs, he benefited from one of our small business loans which strengthened his business.