Featured photo: Some of our group with microcredit client Yareli and her daughter, in her bakery. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hayden.
Whole Planet Foundation alleviates poverty in 17 cities in the United States and 75 additional countries that supply Whole Foods Market stores with products. In Miami, the Foundation supports our primary microfinance partner in the USA, Grameen America. Whole Planet Foundation has disbursed $6,000,000 to Grameen America to empower entrepreneurial women with financial mobility.
In July 2019, twenty-eight Whole Planet Foundation advocates traveled to Miami to meet microcredit clients and witness the transformative power of microcredit as part of the Foundation’s Annual Domestic Impact Visit. Honored participants included Papyrus-Recycled Paper Greetings Customer Development Supervisor Andrea Goodman and Account Executive Kelsey Haig, PepsiCo Premium Natural Team (Naked Juice/KeVita) Senior Director Growth Channels Philip Coughlin and Sales Senior Manager Eric Henriksen, Danone North America, Sales Director – Natural Channel (So Delicious) Shawn Bradley with Joseph Jagellio, Lindsey Hamm, Cathy Coupland, Kelly Shea, Bill Sullivan, and Phil Prosia, Unilever Director Rebecca Peifer, Team Lead Drew Gostovich, Business Manager (Seventh Generation) John Fitzgerald, Sambazon Vice President-Natural Channel Ly Ung, The Republic of Tea Minister of Commerce Kristina Richens, Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods Associate Brand Manager Sophia Vitale and Danielle Praeger, Shoes for Crews Vice President of Sales Chris Hamilton and Strategic Account Manager Audra Murray, Grameen America Vice President of Development Mindee Barham, Development Manager Petra Nelson and Miami Branch Manager Vivian Diaz, Whole Foods Market Regional President Juan Nunez and Regional Store Support Associate Coordinator Jodi St. John, Whole Planet Foundation Senior Marketing & Outreach Program Manager Sandy Mariscal, Digital Fundraising Specialist Olivia Hayden, Americas Regional Director JP Kloninger and me.
Our two-day experience started with an address by Whole Foods Market Regional President Juan Nunez at the fabulous Whole Foods Market Downtown Miami store, over breakfast. There Juan shared what Whole Planet Foundation means to him, starting a cascade of veteran and new donors explaining why they work so hard to contribute and be present for entrepreneurs in Miami and elsewhere in the Americas, Africa and Asia where Whole Planet Foundation alleviates poverty.
Fortified and inspired by collaboration and conscious capitalism, we split ourselves into three different groups to visit microcredit clients Yareli, Marta, Supoya and Kenia. Our goal was to witness in action different points in time of the unique Grameen America process:
• Group of 5 women forms
• Group undergoes five days of financial training
• Members open a savings account
• Each woman receives a microloan to build a small business
• Groups attend weekly meetings with Grameen America field officers to make repayments and receive training
• Each woman repays loans in full at the end of 6 month terms
• Members are eligible for larger loans to grow their business, build their financial identity, and receive additional support
Yareli is originally from Honduras, but she moved to the United States 20 years ago. Her first Grameen America microcredit loan was $2,000 and she used that to purchase flour, eggs, and other ingredients for her bakery. She taught herself and her daughter to bake and distributes her product locally. Her current loan is $3,000 which is used for ingredient purchases. She spoke about how the access to credit helps when sales are down, or for unexpected needs, like a repair.
Marta has a beauty salon in Little Havana, Miami. She was a beautician in Colombia and when she came to the United States many years ago, she decided to start a beauty business to support herself and her son. She opened her salon 15 years ago. She is now on her second Grameen America loan for $2,000, using it to purchase product and equipment.
Suyapo’s restaurant is located on a corner intersection and serves piping hot plantains with housemade salsa. At night, there is karaoke to draw customers in for a drink at the bar, helping to diversify her customer base. The restaurant was challenged for customers when we visited, so Suyapo was going to work a closing shift that night in order to serve dinner.
Kenia opened her neighborhood restaurant four months before we met her, so she is struggling to get the word out, but she has confidence. She said a woman needs to her improve her business not just with delicious food like her Honduran chicken with plantains, but by employing women, to share opportunity. She used her first loan to purchase her restaurant food license and that “a little money helps a lot”. She is married with children and says one of her proudest moments was becoming a United States citizen. Needless to say, lunch was delicious!
After meeting these impressive businesswomen and hearing about their challenges and successes, our group then visited Grameen America’s Miami branch to see operations in action. It is at the branch location, centrally located for client convenience, that Grameen America collects and disburses loans. Grameen America provides microloans, financial training and support to clients like the ones we met. They get the ability to open free savings accounts with commercial banks and make weekly deposits, and their loan payments are reported to credit agencies, enabling them to build their financial identity.
Finally, for our service component we learned about Hope for Haiti, a non-profit organization working to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, which impacts south Florida. CEO Skyler Badenoch and Development Director Stephanie Jepsen shared their work with us and guided a Public Health Program activity of assembling 150 personal hygiene kits for women who have no access to medical supplies or medicine. All in all, a great learning experience!