The women completed a four day business training course prior to receiving the loan. In addition, the women formed groups (4-5 women in each group) to support each other in running their businesses. The topics covered during the business training are 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, the 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 using 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.
- Money Management: 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 capital is growing/decreasing/at the same level as the loan capital amount.
- Creation of 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-ups, a list of equipment (if needed), estimated fixed and variable costs, funds required to start/expand business, if more funds need to be borrowed, the profile of their customers, and how to attract/retain customers, and their goals for the next 1-2 years. If they think they are ready to start a business and begin selling, they graduate from business training and qualify for a loan.
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 installments. The women meet with the loan officer every week to make repayments, ask questions, and learn from their peers about running a business and other 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). This person is available to answer questions, provide guidance, and support those who aren't yet thriving.
During the course of the loan, our loan officers visit the businesses on a regular basis to monitor and advise the women on how to improve sales and store layout, provide better customer service, and keep records of costs, as well as to offer help with accounting 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 of the same amount; when they finish the second loan, a third is provided. 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 in their business and plan to continue working hard to expand their business and earning potential over the next few months.
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