November 13, 2010
Christopher Kellen is a Bankers Without Borders volunteer for Grameen Foundation. He recently traveled to Bangladesh to study work being done at the Grameen Bank, and you can read more about his travels on his blog. Before he left, he also found a great example of microfinance happening right in the middle of his "backyard" of New York City.
I first learned about microfinance five years ago by reading about the work of Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Though I thought the concept, especially the group-borrowing model, was innovative and brilliant as a way of creating creditworthiness in developing communities, like many others I also thought that this model couldn’t work in the United States. However, after a recent visit to Project Enterprise, a Grameen-affiliated microfinance organization in my hometown of New York City, I was stunned by how well they had adapted the model to the environment. After hearing some of the success stories of the entrepreneurs I met there, who had managed to grow businesses with loans starting at just $1,500, I began to rethink my whole concept of starting a business.
One of the amazing entrepreneurs I met that afternoon was named Bridgette King. Bridgette had quit an unfulfilling office job to start a pet-boarding and walking business out of her Harlem apartment. She was making a modest living doing this; however, she saw the potential to make a lot more by expanding the services she could offer her clients. She wanted to get her grooming license, but did not have the money. She couldn’t get a loan from the bank, since her credit had been ruined trying to pay back her college loans.
Fortunately, she found Project Enterprise. The $1,500 loan she received allowed her to get a license and purchase the equipment to start grooming pets in her apartment. With this increased offering of services, the income of Bridgette’s business more than doubled. She has already taken out a second loan to buy equipment to let her handle more pets, and is now planning for her third loan, to take the next step and expand into an actual storefront.
Bridgette’s business, which she calls “King’s Pet Kare,” is on its way to becoming a full service “Doggie Day Spa.” It was all made possible by her determined entrepreneurship and a microloan from Project Enterprise. When I asked her what else had changed as a result of her getting the loan, she replied with a smile, “Well, my neighbors now call me the Dog Whisperer.”
You can find out more about out Bridgette’s business at: http://www.kingspetkare.ws/