Elisa’s small stall in the local market hosts a refrigerated case for soda and shelves lined with home and cooking supplies. But the true focus of the shop is on the low counter that extends around the perimeter of the store, filled with heaping baskets of rice, peanuts and grain. Elisa sells them by the bag, scooping up what her customers need and sending them on their way as she happily chats with her neighbors.
For Elisa, business was not always so easy. She started selling bulk grains from her home in 2003, when her two daughters – now 19 and 12 – were just babies. She worked tirelessly to support her family after her husband left, and eventually was offered a small plot in a commercial area. She jumped at the opportunity to reach a broader set of customers, and moved her operations into the weaving, winding paths of the market.
In 2010, Elisa learned about Opportunity and took out her first loan to purchase additional inventory in bulk. She liked that Opportunity offered small loans, as opposed to other banks that would require her to take out more than she needed or could reasonably pay back. With more stock than ever before, Elisa quickly began earning more. Soon, she was able to start saving and opened a savings account at Opportunity.
She had a goal in mind for her savings: a vehicle. She knew that a car would help both her business and her family, empowering her to more easily transport inventory for the shop from town to the market, and also allowing her kids to get around. After several years of saving, Elisa reached her goal and purchased a car.
Now, Elisa is saving to grow and improve the store. She is excited about the future and confident that she can achieve her goals. Most of all, she is proud that she can support her daughters in their educations. Her oldest daughter completed high school and is now studying HR management, and her younger daughter is in middle school. Elisa is so proud of them, and dreams that they will finish school and get good jobs of their own.
Your donations help provide tools and training that equip and empower women like Elisa to thrive. 8.8 million women around the world are using Opportunity loans and savings to contribute decisively to their businesses, empowering them to improve quality of life for their families–today, tomorrow and into the future.
When small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have access to quality extension services, farming loans, savings accounts and other tools to manage cash flow between harvests, they not only increase their farming productivity, but can more easily feed their families and communities. As of June 30, 2016, Opportunity International's Agriculture Finance program has cumulatively disbursed 369,618 agricultural loans in more than 30 value chains across seven countries valued at $66.5 million. Each loan is packaged with targeted financial products andtraining in modern farming practices ensuring that farmers can achieve high-impact results. Marie Rose is one of those farmers.
Marie Rose owned a farm in Rwanda that failed to produce a bountiful maize crop. When her husband died suddenly, she could no longer afford the diabetes medication that was so critical to her continued good health. She quickly fell into a very dark and frightening place. “I was widowed and beyond poor,” Marie Rose said. “My husband left his farm to me, yet I was not educated in the modern farming ways. I was lost and alone. Then, I found Opportunity.” Grieving and in need of sound advice, she found the answers she sought when a friend invited her to join an Opportunity Rwanda Trust Group.
First, she rented out extra rooms in her home to trustworthy neighbors to generate immediate income. Next, she invested Opportunity loans to purchase high quality inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers, improving her production. In no time, she was not only growing enough maize to store for her family, but she had plenty to sell at market. The increased income has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on her ability to manage her illness, support her family and even take on the care of several local orphans.
Transforming her maize farm in just two seasons has drawn plenty of attention from neighboring farmers. Filled with new confidence, she is certain to reach her goals to create jobs for local laborers and install a toilet and electricity in her home. With your help, Opportunity will decisively scale its agriculture services to millions of farmers like Marie Rose in the coming years.
Twelve years ago, José and his ex-wife began selling baked goods from a small stall on the street in their community of Lucero Bajo in southern Bogota, Colombia. For eight years, they worked to build their business, selling more and more cakes and treats each year. Finally, four years ago, the two purchased a store front and began baking in the back of the building and selling from the front. The same year, they welcomed their son – celebrating both familial and company accomplishments.
José taught himself to bake and uses his own recipes – preparing popular treats like cheesecake and cream puffs. He is committed to preparing the highest quality products, choosing the best ingredients instead of trying to save money with poor-quality inputs. And now, he is extending his expertise to others by training new bakers. He has hired 8 employees, none of whom knew anything about the baking industry before coming under José’s tutelage, all of whom were eager to work hard and learn. Now, they wake up early to mix flour and eggs and sugar, preparing the many recipes they have learned from their boss and trainer.
José learned about Opportunity International and received his first loan to install an elevator to carry ingredients from the first to the third floor. Since then, he has continued to work with Opportunity, taking loans for additional machinery including a plastic sealer to package goods for delivery. Now, he has bigger dreams than ever. His team is building a new room to prepare artisanal cakes on the third floor, and he is always hoping for new tools and equipment to make their work easier.
Thanks to the success of his business, José is a well-respected leader in his community, and your support has helped other entrepreneurs just like him build businesses and provide for their families throughout Colombia.