Small Steps Lead to a Big Difference
There has been news at RoukiBeauty (pronounced ruuki). My good friend and collaborator Sarata Berthe founded a women's organization in Mali to hand render shea nuts into shea butter. They have learned a process that creates a light, fresh smelling natural butter. For those who do not know, shea butter is a fabulous moisturizer for skin and hair, restoring emollience. Africans have used it for centuries also for medicinal and cooking purposes. It is truly versatile!
It is shea nut season, and the association needed to buy lots of nuts right away. RoukiBeauty is proud to share that we (I) provided a microcredit loan! They are a new association, and getting a loan at the credit union would have taken too much time. This allowed the women to purchase the nuts at the best price.
How did I go about it? Well, first Sarata and I agreed that since it was a loan to the organization, a fair interest rate was the correct way to proceed. Plus, I needed to recuperate the fees charged to me from the interwire transfer.
I researched rates in the internet and found there is wide variation across and within countries. An article in an African website quoted the rate that the local micro credit institution provided, and so I used that as a barometer.
I do not have the means or desire to enter into micro credit business! This was perhaps the only loan I will make but it did feel good. Some things to consider if you too would like to provide a seed loan: 1. Know the group or a member - personally might be best although it is no guarantee of repayment. 2. Discuss rates but also the actual amount per month that would mean for them to repay and ask if it is feasible. If a group says yes yes yes, it might not be legitimate. 3. Don't lend too much. Basically I did a quick economic analysis and imagined the worse case scenario - non-payment. Could I live with it? The amount I provided was small enough that the answer was yes.
I lived in that same neighborhood in Mali as Sarata, and many of the women still remember me. Helping them to start their business activity made me feel like my connection to them and Sarata is still living, breathing.
Sometimes I dream of a big company launch campaign, but with limited funds, a 'day job', and an 11 month old son getting this business going is an exercise in patience.
The challenges I currently face are timely shipping (still an issue - costs too high), and how to get the word out about my business in Switzerland. The original concept is home parties which provide a more intimate setting to share the story behind each product. All ideas are welcome.
Must stay positive! A little step forward is better than no action at all.