- "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." -- Helen Keller
Agora partners with Thriive Capital to offer financial services to marginalized populations in Nicaragua. Thriive is a Foundation that makes interest-free loans to small businesses in the “missing middle” — too large for microfinance and too small for investment. Additional information can be found on the Thriive website.
The goals of the Thriive program are the following:
• Encourage small business growth
• Create new, permanent jobs
• Promote a culture of social responsibility within the business community
Thriive makes loans that are strictly allocated toward the purchase of machinery and equipment. Recipient businesses repay Thriive loans not in cash, but rather by donating an equivalent value of in-kind products, services, and vocational training to the poor in their communities. The average loan disbursed is slightly less than $10,000, but the effect of the loan is enormous: on average, entrepreneurs hire 95% more employees after the loan is made. Thriive enlists field partners to disburse and monitor the loans. Additionally, Thriive Nicaragua works with local and international universities to provide limited business consulting services. Current countries include Vietnam, Palestine, and Kenya, and Nicaragua.
Since the inception of the partnership in 2011, Agora has helped 22 companies obtain financing. If you are interested in applying for Thriive or want more information on Thriive, please contact Tatiana Toruño at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After receiving five new machines for shoe production and a computer and a camera for online sales and marketing, Sai, owner of A Sus Pies, jumped right into her charitable repayment. She is partnering with a local CBO that focuses on the vocational training of homeless teenagers and abused women on everything from sewing to cooking to car repair. Before Thriive, Sai was scared of doing charity work in such a poor neighborhood, but now she has built a relationship with her students and thinks that this bond will help her add long term value to this community. Sai is currently training nine young adults in the craft of sewing with the end goal of employing some of them in her business. Thriive had a chance to speak with one of the trainees and asked him why he was participating in the training. He responded, “I have no real skills. After this training, I will be able to contribute to society by working for a textile company or maybe I will even get a job with A Sus Pies!” Another trainee spoke about wanting to start her own business. Sai plans to track her students’ progress in the job market and do what she can to help them find employment in the textile industry.
Thriive’s support has been very valuable for A Sus Pies. Before receiving the equipment, Sai made all the shoes by hand. As a result of the machines, quality control has improved significantly and A Sus Pies’ product line has expanded to include bags. With an increase in production capacity, Sai doubled the retailers she services and hired 2 new employees to keep up with the increased demand. During her first round of consulting, Sai learned a lot about marketing and sales. As a graphic designer and shoemaker, she had little prior knowledge of how to run a business and is strongly looking forward to the next consulting engagement.
Sales are up by 100% since Cereales Doña Zeneyda received equipment. Cereales Doña Zeneyda now sells in thirty-five stores (up from 8) as well as thirty-five pulperias (small stores). Cereales Doña Zeneyda has hired six new employees: one in production, one in administration, and four in sales and working conditions have improved significantly. When Thriive first visited Cereales Doña Zeneyda in 2010, the work area was incredibly smoky. Eliminating this smoke is one of the many improvements that this new equipment was able to create. However, the equipment brought some new challenges. Cereales Doña Zeneyda is growing fast and running out of space in their current location. They only have one delivery vehicle, making distribution difficult at times. They have participated in consulting services from another provider, but would like to work with Thriive consultants as well to improve HR and seek additional financing.
To repay the loan, Cereales Doña Zeneyda is donating their cereal to multiple children’s homes. In the past, they spread their donations so thin that they had a hard time measuring their impact. They decided to focus on a single home that houses 85 disabled children and adults called Pajarito Azul. Iveth, the owner of Cereales Doña Zeneyda chose this home because of the strong connection she feels to the residents. The donations consist of forty bags worth $1 each. The donation improves nutrition and lasts for about thirteen days. To speed up repayment of the loan, Thriive suggested providing training to other people in the community. Iveth liked this idea because the government had previously requested her to train potential entrepreneurs. She would like to do more training at her shop but doesn’t currently have space. Iveth is committed to charity and will continue donating to Pajarito Azul while seeking additional training opportunities.
Thriive helped Details improve their production process and create a new product line. They have increased their client based because they are now able to screen-print customized logos onto their bags. They now sell bags in bulk to 17 supermarkets (up from 7) and to 20 new mini-markets. Details increased sales by 20% and created 3 new jobs –one in production and two in sales. Unfortunately, one piece of equipment is left idle because it does not fit through the doorway at the current in-home shop, and they don’t have the resources to move into a bigger shop.
To repay their loan, Details is training women and young adults in craft making skills. They partnered with the manager of Hogar Zacarias Guerra, a local CBO that educates abused and orphaned children to keep them off the streets and give them a chance at a better life. Hogar Zacarias Guerra provides supplies and recruits trainees and Mayra, the owner of Details, runs the training workshops. Mayra is currently training 18 children and their mothers. The trainings last about four months with two sessions per month of four hours each. Mayra also brings youth from the streets into her shop where she has taught her employees to train them. Thriive asked one of the teenagers who participated in the training what his goals were after completion. He replied, “Trabajo! Get skills and get work!” He now works for Details.
Details also donates products to a local church which they sell to raise money for their soup kitchen. The church’s priest told us that their kitchen serves lunch to 80-100 children ages 3-12, Monday through Friday. The Church was able to add vegetables and meat to their meals of rice and beans. Mayra also taught these children to make hand-made rosaries that they can sell for up to $3, creating supplemental income for their families.
Francella Muñoz, owner of Serviplus, is a woman with a big heart and a drive for running a business. She recently started her repayment which entails regular maintenance supplies and services for a school in her community. Before Serviplus offered its supplies and services, the school didn’t even have a broom, let alone any proper cleaning materials. Now the school receives cleaning supplies and services from Serviplus every month. Francella is also training 15 high school students as part of her repayment. She hopes to be able to provide them with jobs when their training is complete. She has already hired five new full time employees from the poor neighborhood surrounding the school, bringing her workforce to 60 employees after starting the business in 2009 with only four!
The new equipment increased the quantity and size of the contracts the business is able to obtain because they can now offer carpet cleaning and landscaping services. Gross income is up by 30%. Francella is taking full advantage of Thriive’s consulting opportunities, and has greatly improved her marketing and growth management. Her focus for the next sessions will be HR and team building. Francella strongly believes in the value of teamwork because of its ability to greatly improve her business and the lives of her employees. Before Thriive finished the visit, Francella made sure to tell us about the bond she has built with the school and the students. “In my heart…when I see all that these beautiful children are missing in their lives, I know I must help. I am connected to this school.” Francella also plans to paint the school and to incorporate other ideas for improving the facilities.