Empower women. Eliminate poverty.


The Power of Seed Capital: Catarina’s Hardware Store

Imagine you are here in Guatemala, in Catarina’s hardware store. It is a simple shop but full of activity, with customers coming in and out to buy supplies. If you were here, you would smell rubber and a hint of gasoline in the air, as Catarina happily chats with a customer, then completes yet another transaction. An order has just arrived from one of her newest customers, a wholesale buyer making a large purchase of sand and cement blocks. Catarina quickly gets to work to fulfill the order. “My community respects my work,” she says. “And many of them are our customers.”

Catarina’s store was not always so successful. Previously, she had only a few inexpensive items to sell. But little by little, the store grew more popular in her rural community of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, a municipality in the Sololá department of Guatemala. Although she was making some income from selling her handmade artisan goods, she needed just a little more capital to invest in her business so it could flourish and grow. This early funding, also known as “seed capital,” is a key component to the success of a business, but it is often a loan that banks will not risk lending, especially to a first-time, early-venture business owner like Catarina. Seed capital funds initial business operating expenses, such as special equipment, legal or marketing services, or even professional support. But for those without a proven track record of business success, the loan is often unattainable, even more so for women in rural Guatemala.

A Friendship Bridge client for about 15 years, Catarina was recently accepted into the new Bridge to Success program, moving her from the Dreamer client segment to the Entrepreneur group at Friendship Bridge. “My groupmates encouraged me to take this new step,” Catarina said. “I am moving forward.” Benefits of the new program include individual loans (as opposed to our traditional group lending model), a professional mentor, and advanced trainings focused on business strategy, planning, management, and leadership development. “It has been very interesting to move from a Trust Bank loan to an individual loan,” Catarina said. “The individual loan has helped me to invest in more inventory. And my mentor visits me once a week to hear about my progress and to see if I need any extra support.”

Previously, Catarina did not always have the products her buyers needed, but now she can offer a wider variety of products for wholesale, and her customers get them on time. This improves buyer retention and loyalty and, as a result, her customers continue placing bigger orders and buying more products. It is a virtuous cycle. “Ultimately, our income will help provide better opportunities for our children. This is thanks to the new financing and training received from Friendship Bridge.”

What is seed capital?

Seed capital funds a company’s initial operating expenses that are critical to its growth, such as special equipment, legal or marketing services, and professional mentoring to name a few. 

How to support.

We hope reading this blog article inspired you. Stories like Catarina’s are always inspiring because when women find their own solutions to poverty, they also learn they have a community of supporters who believe in them who know they deserve an early loan that will help them on their chosen path. Because of our donors, women like Catarina are positioned to learn, grow, and succeed. Because of this, Friendship Bridge is collecting donations through Dec. 31 that will be matched dollar-for-dollar (up to $50,00) by a generous donor. That means all gifts will DOUBLE in value if we can reach our $50,000 goal. \

What your donation can provide.

$100 supports an artisan with essential funding for business expenses, such as operations or product development

$350 the average loan issued to a first-time Dreamer client, allowing her to invest in her business so it can flourish and grow

$500 provides capital for agriculture clients to invest in agricultural technology like a ferti-irrigation system

$1,000 provides essential seed capital to a Bridge to Success program Entrepreneur client

$3,500 the average loan issued to a first-time Entrepreneur client, allowing her to expand her business in ways she never thought possible 

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