In Nubia’s small neighborhood of Verbenal Sur, Colombia people look for any paying work they can find. Plagued with material poverty and battered by the ever-present wind and cold, day-to-day life in the mountain village can prove quite challenging. Given the economic and social barriers the hardworking residents face, Nubia was thrilled to land a job for a gift bag company when she was just 15 years old. She assembled bags from home and shipped them back to the company.
Building on her new skills, she eventually launched her own business making and selling hand-crafted gift bags. She started slowly, but Nubia joined an Opportunity Trust Group to give her fledgling business a jump start. She received a loan and was thrilled when she began training to improve her business skills.
Nubia invested her first Opportunity loan to purchase raw materials in bulk at much cheaper prices. Before long, she more than doubled her inventory and was able to purchase a used car to conduct business and make deliveries, opening the doors for her to achieve a whole new level of success. She even started creating birthday bags and packing them with treats to attract new customers. Today, Nubia’s business is a family affair. Her husband works as the salesman seeking out stores to sell her products, and at Christmastime, when sales are highest, Nubia hires 3-4 more people to deal with the seasonal rush.
Nubia has a dream to create employment opportunities for her whole family and even more neighbors. She envisions everyone working together to create their own brand and line of party supplies. Her oldest son is a talented artist, so Nubia hopes that he will eventually work as a designer – empowering them to create their own unique products. Her other two kids are still discovering their interests and skills, but she is confident that she can find a role for them in the family business if they desire. Eventually, Nubia hopes to save enough to purchase a plot of land to build a family store and home, a dream she is confident she will be able to achieve thanks to the support of Opportunity.
Opportunity International is increasing financial access and reducing poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa through its innovative Agriculture Finance initiative. Four of every five Opportunity-supported farmers are achieving significant yield increases of up to 40%.
Martin is just one of these farmers who is farming smarter thanks to support from Opportunity International. For many years, he has tended to his rice farm to earn a living, but he struggled against drought and the rising costs of operating his farm as he tried to provide for his family. After joining Opportunity International, Martin received Opportunity loans in the form of seeds and fertilizer, giving him the inputs he needed to increase his yields. Martin was also connected to markets where he was assured the best prices for his crops, and he can spend less time bargaining with vendors. His loan repayment is also aligned with the day of his harvest – a result of Opportunity listening closely to our clients’ needs.
Martin continues to receive valuable training and advice from his Opportunity agricultural officer, who uses a tablet to measure his plot, track costs, monitor crop pricing and track productivity. He has already been able to save time by using his basic cell phone to manage his accounts, and in just one season, Martin increased his rice production by 1,700%. He also hired two field hands to assist with plowing, planting and harvesting, creating valuable jobs in his community. Now, Martin beams with pride when his children and grandchildren visit his farm and see the incredible progress he has made thanks to Opportunity.
For Armando, the dark, dusty corridors of the market are all that he knows. The market is home. As a child, Armando grew up learning to sell clothes here while working for another vendor. Eventually, he decided to start his own stall selling dresses and pants that he purchases in unmarked bags downtown. The bags are packed in the US or Europe and shipped to Mozambique, where vendors buy them and hope that their contents are stylish and in good condition.
Armando is comfortable navigating the market, but he is not blind to its dangers. He is adamant that his two kids – ages 6 and 2 – go to and stay in school, learn all that they can, and get jobs outside of these hidden paths. His greatest goal is to be a good father, giving his kids a future that he couldn’t have.
In 2012, after 12 years of hard work building a business, Armando learned about Opportunity International and received a loan to purchase stock. A full supply of clothes was just the kick-start his business needed, and soon it began to grow even more. Now, Armando has four employees – two cousins and two friends – who help him man the shop. He was able to purchase a second stall in the market, so now he has one dedicated to pants and one to dresses.
With his booming business, Armando began to save, and a few years ago he was able to buy land and build a home for his family. With their own place to live, the future has opened up – they are dreaming bigger than ever before. Armando has plans to return to school himself. He was only able to complete eighth grade, so this year, he is heading back to high school to complete his GED. He’s saving for furniture for his home, and eventually he would like to purchase a car. And as always, he is focused on growing his business and expanding the shop.
Armando’s big dream is to be successful enough that he can move his store out of the market and into a boutique. He is ready to leave the crowded corridors and become an official store-owner with a shop where he knows his kids will be safe visiting him. He loves working with Opportunity and appreciates the relationship he has with his loan officer. And he knows that with a lot of hard work and continued support from Opportunity, he can achieve his goals.