Last year during the pandemic the hashtag #AloneTogether was trending. Quarantining at home made us take a look at what it meant to come together to survive alone; we also realized we aren't alone. The same can be said for these small independent entrepreneurs in Costa Rica. Each one of them is succeeding in their own small business, but they aren't doing it alone.
Every one of these business owners is a member of an Empresas de Crédito (EC) established through Grupo FINCA. The ECs are created in rural communities to help contribute to the social and economic development of its inhabitants. By creating these credit communities, Grupo FINCA strengthens and empowers the members to help create and grow small businesses that uplift their families, their neighbors, and the entire EC.
The ECs operate on a local level run for and by the members themselves. They decide which businesses to support and because the loans affect their general pool of capital, they are typically paid back early in full. Loans may be requested to repair a goat fence, buy extra seed for the field, build shelving or stock for a market or to increase staff at a home tailoring business.
In fact because of the pandemic, many EC members experienced financial hardships that have continued into 2021. Of the workers affected, about half of them either saw a decrease in their salaries or their hours. This in turn impacted the income put back into their communities. Loans were provided, much like PPP loans here in the US, to help make up for the shortfall. Some small businesses within the EC applied for loans to hire staff to provide jobs for members of the community which in turn helped boost their local economies.
Grupo FINCA saw an increased interest in our direct partner Mi Bici over the past year. Mi Bici is a micro-finance project that uses our donated bikes to help generate income for an EC. Demand for bikes increased during the pandemic as the need for affordable, safe transportation became a priority. As more people were staying home to stay safe, there was also a greater interest in sewing machines to set up home based businesses. We include sewing machines along with bikes in our donated containers.
Our fourth container just arrived in Costa Rica last week. Overall we have donated 37,160 bikes, 589 sewing machines, and 11 computers to Mi Bici. In the upcoming weeks we will continue to bring you stories of how your donated bikes are impacting the lives of families in the EC of San Gabriel...