Great news! Friendship Bridge has officially launched Bridge to Success, a new program that will empower over 1,000 women entrepreneurs in rural Guatemala by 2025 with intensive business development training, individual loans, technical assistance, connections to peer networks, and access to new markets.
In this post, we’ll provide a clear explanation of this exciting new program and provide examples of the financial services and business training benefits women entrepreneurs in Guatemala will receive as a result of participating. We expect the impact of this program will play a key role in strengthening Guatemala’s economy and therefore address the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle region of Central America.
“The new Bridge to Success program will be excellent. I will invest my loan more securely because I know there will be buyers and connections. This will bring more orders and more work. We can progress in our business and with a mentor’s help, it will be excellent.”
– RUTH, Friendship Bridge Client
What is the Bridge to Success program?
Bridge to Success is the newest of Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus programs, focused on providing women entrepreneurs in Guatemala with intensive business development training and specialized loans. Supported by the financial backing of a $1 million grant, this new program will allow us to directly serve a specific segment of clients we call Entrepreneurs. These businesswomen, who manage what are known as “livelihood-sustaining enterprises,” are highly motivated, have an economically viable business model poised for growth, and are the drivers of economic development and new jobs in their communities. The program will grow significantly over the next five years, resulting in increased income for these entrepreneurs and job growth in Guatemala’s rural communities, where it is most needed.
The Bridge to Success program will provide two major benefits to clients:
- Financial Services: Individual loans offered to women entrepreneurs for working capital and purchasing fixed assets. Loan terms of 6-36 months, with fiduciary guarantees, possession rights, and mortgages, depending on the size of the loan.
- Business Training: Evidence-based classes focused on business strategy, planning, and management, as well as leadership and community development. Some market services will be offered as well, such as branding, business formalization services, networking, fairs, and business competition, among others.
A Key Component to Our Mission and Strategy
Friendship Bridge is a nonprofit social enterprise creating opportunities that empower women in Guatemala to build a better life. The Bridge to Success program is a major component of our 2021-25 Strategic Plan, which will focus on: Responsible Growth, Innovation and Technology, Social Impact, and the launch of Bridge to Success. We use an innovative and high-impact approach to poverty alleviation by combining the tools of microfinance, education, and preventive health services. We call this Microcredit Plus. As a result of participating, our clients experience a combination of:
- Increased resilience
- Improved empowerment
- Accelerated business development
“Friendship Bridge is unique in Guatemala in that we combine our loan program with intensive business and leadership training, tailored to the needs of each woman,” said Karen Larson, Friendship Bridge President & CEO. “We will use this approach in our new program to directly serve a specific group of clients called the ‘missing middle’ who are underserved but have high potential to create jobs.”
Ready to Start!
Our President & CEO Karen Larson was able to travel to Guatemala in July 2021 to attend a training with staff on the methodology and techniques we will need to support our Entrepreneur clients and develop their businesses. The group included our individual credit facilitators, business developers, Business Development Services Coordinator, and Non-Formal Education team. The methodology of the Bridge to Success program was generated by our partners Swisscontact through an alliance transferred to Friendship Bridge.
Our 1st Workshop
We held our first successful pilot workshop in Quetzaltenango on Aug. 19, 2021 to recruit clients for the Bridge to Success. A total of 69 people participated (in-person and online) to learn how to do business using their cell phones and sell their products on WhatsApp and Facebook. The class was facilitated by a certified coach and specialist in business empowerment with more than 29 years of experience in sales.
How to Support?
Friendship Bridge is working harder than ever to increase economic opportunities for women in Guatemala and empower them to build a better life. Poverty, violence, natural disasters, malnutrition, and corruption are just some of the tragic challenges our clients face on a regular basis. The compounded effects of COVID-19 have only exacerbated their burdens, leading some to send their loved ones away from Guatemala on a dangerous and costly journey North. Our new Bridge to Success program is part of our long-term efforts to provide holistic solutions that counter the root causes of migration. You can support our work by making a donation today that will help us grow and improve women-led businesses, reducing household vulnerability, and increasing empowerment for thousands of women in Guatemala. Thank you for your support!