Small group loans to start businesses
Our first response, from 1998 until 2010, was to apply the concept and techniques of Micro-Financing from the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Funds were raised to support local agencies making small repayable loans (starting at $100) to groups of borrowers, primarily women, to start or expand mini-businesses, with the bonus of basic business-skills training. In this period we supported 5 local agencies in 5 provinces, making loans to home-based grocery stalls, fruit and vegetable stands, candy, snack and meat providers, dressmakers, second hand clothing sellers and school lunch businesses, amongst others.
Most of these borrowers were entrepreneurs by necessity, not choice. What if we took the most successful businesses, those run by born entrepreneurs, and cloned them? This led to our second phase.