Our Mission is to directly contribute to Women´s Economic Empowerment by providing business development programs that increase the business cash flow of low income women.
Approximately 700 women annually are offered education services with Q2,000 – Q5,000 loan ($260-$660) and if successful, a second loan of Q3,000-Q7,000 ($400-900). Third loans are also an option. Inspired by successful program graduates, we developed a separate “Starz” program to loan up to $4,000 for women who can grow their businesses large enough to employ additional workers.
Each Namaste Entrepreneur is assigned a professional business advisor for the duration of their loan cycle. Business advisors are local community leaders, well versed in the local economy and also the indigenous language of the region. Together, client and advisor go through the details of the business, focusing on cash-flow analysis, detailed record keeping, and strategic planning. The Namaste training methodology – highly sensitive to literacy rates and cultural needs – is crafted to keep each client on track.
Focus on Financial Literacy
We have seen that without basic financial training, many microcredit borrowers can end up worse off than before they took a loan. In our program, each Namaste Entrepreneur learns important cash management techniques, such as separating business money from personal money. Through culturally-sensitive education materials developed by the Freedom from Hunger foundation and participatory techniques, our clients learn by doing, along with a supportive group of cohorts. The education sessions are front loaded, offering Namaste entrepreneurs the ability to utilize the valuable lessons throughout the loan cycle. As a result, they gain control over their businesses, and their lives.
Namaste’s Customized Business Loan Program
As a part of our business development program, we ensure that our client obtains a small business loan to finance her business and leverage what she learns from us about business. A Canadian NGO, Open to Grow, provides a substantial portion of the capital needed to fund small business loans to our entry level clients and to program graduates at interest rates 25% – 50% below other microfinance organizations in Guatemala. We work with local banks to finance the businesses of larger and high growth clients, as our goal is to help clients enter the mainstream economy. Each woman’s business is unique, which is why the loans are tailored to the specific needs of each client. Before even obtaining a loan, however, we perform metrics to qualify clients and to help us determine our impact. At the outset we measure the daily income of each Namaste Entrepreneur. Within 30 days of receiving the loan, our clients must satisfy their personal business adviser that they have invested at least 80% of the loan proceeds into their businesses. Throughout the loan cycle, clients must demonstrate that their business profits are sufficient to be the source of loan repayments. These steps help us guard against ‘loan stacking’ and the inappropriate use of funds. After we are satisfied that each new Namaste Entrepreneur is on a solid footing for success, Namaste Business Advisors work with their clients to define specific business objectives, outlining important steps to take to achieve their dreams.
The Huge Difference Fund Annual Business Women’s Conference is an opportunity for 100 of Namaste’s clients to learn more about business from outstanding speakers, workshop leaders and each other. It was initiated in 2007 by the founder of Huge Difference, Ed Mattar, who asked the question “Is there a business conference in Guatemala for low-income businesswoman?” When he heard that the answer was “No.”, Ed saw an opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of others and asked Namaste to create a unique experience for its clients. To date, 700 business women have met along the shores of Lake Atitlan for a 3-day conference featuring learning, cultural exchanges and peer-based entrepreneurial support. For many of the women, the conference is a seminal event in their lives as it is the first time they have been without their children, stayed in a hotel and been recognized as leaders in their society.
The monitoring and evaluation system used by Namaste is based on a tailor made online database called PROSPER (Poverty Reduction Operating Software that Plans, Evaluates and Reports). This online database system houses more than 500 data points of information per client which is available to the Namaste staff and was developed specifically for us by Tenmast, a Kentucky based software company. On top of prosper sits QlikView, the leading business intelligence software system worldwide. Namaste uses this combined system to analyze not only our clients’ performance, but our team performance as well. The graphics below illustrates an example of one of dozens of reports our staff members utilize in their work.