Villages Connected Blog


getting down to business by Greg Spira

Time flies when business ideas take off.

Or at least that is what has consumed the last few weeks.

Each of the co-op members had been tasked with a video or photo essay assignment as part of their training:  to document a business idea that could be funded by the co-op through its microfinance fund.  The members were to use their new interview skills, learn about the business and use the media they create as a sort of visual loan application.

By the time the group convened, there were 17 businesses proposed for Villages Connected loans, and many more in the works.

co-member Geoffrey proposed helping a retail shop grow using the first round of microfinance loans

 

co-member Prisca proposed her restaurant for the first round of microfinance loans

Like everything we’ve done here, the process of evaluation was developed by our co-op members.  It was simple and flexible, yet structured.

First, each of the media co-op members presented their video or photo essay to the group.  Then the group members, acting as first evaluators of the loan application, asked the presenters some truly tough questions.  They wanted to be sure that the business ideas were viable and, therefore, that their microfinance fund would be well used.

From there, the group voted for their 3 choices for the first round – the businesses they thought would be good candidates for the microloans. This brought the number down to 13 applications.

A core group of members attended an additional training session to learn more about how to do business assessments and how to make preliminary financial analysis of the businesses.  Armed with an extensive questionnaire, members worked in pairs, visiting the business owners, and took charge of the assessment process. In the end, they were able to figure out that some of the application, while very interesting, were not good candidates for the first round of lending. Others, they decided, would make excellent clients.

co-op member Lawrence interviews one of the applicants for a microfinance loan

 

The biggest difficulty?  The size of the microloan fund.

The original plan, and what we at Villages Connected had aimed for, was to provide loans to 10 businesses as a starting point.  The 10 would demonstrate just how powerful combining media and microfinance could be.  However, our fundraising efforts fell short of what was needed.  So only 4 businesses will be able to gain access to the microfinance fund in round 1.

The group will decide which four start things rolling.

Once they do, these four businesses will not only have passionate Villages Connected media co-operative members running them.  They will also have the support of their equally dynamic fellow media co-op members.  Together they will help the businesses take flight and monitor its progress using the cameras in their hands.

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