In June 2014, 22 new women were identified to be provided with business training and loans to start small businesses. The loan disbursement activities, were held on June 12, 2014. The women who received loans were happy and said that they were looking forward to starting a business with the loan capital and would work hard to make their businesses successful. For most women this was their first business venture.
Profile of the New Beneficiaries
The women in this group range in ages from 33 to 65 years of age. Most women are taking care of several family members with a typical household size of eight, out of which five are children. They have chosen to start a diverse set of businesses ranging from groceries (fruits, dry fish, tea, soft drinks, vegetables, Beans, Kapenta, fresh fish, mealie meal- a Zambian staple), restaurant, hair salon, used clothing, shoes, and clothing items.
The women completed a four day business training course prior to receiving the loan capital. In addition, the women formed groups (4-5 women in each group) to support each other in running their businesses. A list of the topics covered during business training is as follows:
- Market investigation: The trainees are asked to brainstorm and come up with ideas on the kind of business they would like to start/expand, who their customers will be, location of their business, and the process of selling their goods or services.
- Buying: Issues such as quality, pricing, sourcing of materials, quantity and frequency of purchases of raw materials/inventory are discussed.
- Costing and pricing: In addition to cost of materials, competition, and pricing of final product, trainees are asked to think about filling a need in the marketplace and developing unique products by use their individual talents and competencies.
- Selling: The concept of selling above cost and profit is introduced. In addition, ideas on how to attract and retain customers are discussed.
- MoneyManagement: In this module, we discuss the importance of bookkeeping and accounting. We encourage the women to keep a Money Management sheet/book for their business finances. We guide them on how to separate funds for capital, loan repayment, hire purchase expenses (if any), savings, and family expenses. This helps them estimate if their capita is growing/decreasing/at the same level as the loan capital amount.
- Creating a simple business plan: By the end of the fourth day of training the women are able to provide information on location of their business, where they will purchase raw materials/inventory, how they are going to set up their store, proposed mark-up, list of equipment (if needed), estimated fixed and variable costs, funds required to start/expand business, if funds need to be borrowed/or from own funds, profile of customers, and how to attract/retain customers, and their goals for the next 1-2 years. In addition, if they think they are ready to start a business and begin selling, they are qualified for the loan and graduated from business training.
Disbursement of loans
The women were provided with a loan capital in the amount of $120-140 and are expected to complete loan repayments in 25 weekly instalments. They meet with the loan officer every week to make repayments, ask questions, learn from their peers about running a business, and discuss issues important to them (like taking care of an HIV+ child, importance of keeping children in school, HIV prevention, importance of getting tested for HIV etc.). At the end of every two months they attend a business mentoring session in which they have the opportunity to meet a business person like themselves (who is running a successful business), and this person is available to answer questions.
During the course of the loan, our loan officers visit the businesses on a regular basis to monitor and advice the women on how to improve sales, store layout, provide better customer service, keep records of costs, accounting help, and pricing.
Once the women have finished repaying the first loan they will be participate in refresher training and will be provided with a second loan in the same amount. At the end of the third loan cycle, the women are weaned off the program as they are expected to have accumulated enough capital to run their business on their own.
The new women who received loans are happy as they hope to take better care of their families, and keep/send their children to school. They are confident about their business and plan to continue working hard to expand their business and earnings potential over the next few months.