Kiva: business success in the developing world

There are lots of ways to make a difference to someone’s life in the developing world: clean, safe water; vaccinations against diseases such as typhoid and malaria; literacy and numeracy; and food to ensure their survival.

A micro-loan from an organisation such as Kiva can make all the difference to people in the developing world: income from a small but successful enterprise can pay for education, food and shelter. Here, we will look at 8 successful female entrepreneurs who helped create their businesses with Kiva.

Who are Kiva?

One of the world’s leading micro-finance organisations, is Kiva. Founded in 2005 by Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley, Kiva is a non-profit organisation which connects lenders to borrowers across the world. $281 million worth of micro-loans have been lent to more than 720,000 people in 61 countries across the world.

Kiva partners with local micro-finance organisations that screen applicants, process the loans, and help entrepreneurs with their businesses. For $25, a shop owner in Peru can buy more stock, a farmer in Cambodia can grow more rice or a cosmetics agent in Pakistan could find more customers.

80% of entrepreneurs who have been helped by Kiva are women. They have the drive, passion and tenacity to create successful enterprises.

If they can do it, why can’t you?

Here are 8 female entrepreneurs who built successful businesses with Kiva’s help:

Tem, Cambodia

Tem is a 56-year old married woman with seven children who lives in Cambodia. She works as a poultry breeder to support her husband, a small rice farmer, and needed a $500 loan to expand her business.

Tem gradually built up her business to help her family and three of her children now work with her. Two others are farmers, while the remaining two are labourers.

Thanks to Kiva’s help, she has been able to buy more ducks for breeding and looks forward to more success in the future.

Carmen, Bolivia

Carmen Rosa is a single mother from Bolivia who has two small children. Her motivation for starting her own business came after her husband suddenly abandoned her. She had little in the way of income, and needed to feed and clothe her family.

Carmen was concerned that her children would not be able to go to school and might suffer from malnutrition. Carmen took immediate action and dedicated herself to improving the situation for her family. She worked morning shifts at a cafe, “Pancho Pollo”, and sold barbecue meats, savoury pastries such as empanadas, sodas and other items, in the evening.

She showed entrepreneurial nous when setting up her business, choosing a location at the corner of Alemana Avenue and ER Anillo, one of Santa Cruz’s busiest roads. There was very little competition and Carmen was able to get a lot of business quickly.

She needed a loan of $900 to help her buy a used cart so she can carry and bring her products, and accommodate other things to sell.

Carmen successfully repaid the loan and now has a thriving business. Her success is down to her tenacity and hard work. She made the most of an unfortunate situation and is an inspiration to female entrepreneurs everywhere.

Jessica, Philippines

Jessica is a 27-year old married woman with five children from the Philippines. She started a clothing retail business to support her family and ensure her children would receive an education, something we take for granted in the developed world.

Jessica is a born entrepreneur, having started the business when she was just 20 years old. Her enterprise quickly took off and she couldn’t keep up with the demand for second-hand clothing.

In 2008, she joined the Hagdan sa Pag-uswag Foundation, one of Kiva’s local intermediaries, to gain access to capital to help expand her business. She successfully repaid that loan.

Kiva’s loan of $300 enabled her to increase the business’s capital, securing its future. Jessica’s children have been able to receive an education and live a safe and prosperous life, all thanks to Kiva.

Adela, Peru

Adela is a 56-year old woman who lives with her daughter and granddaughter in Peru. She is a serial entrepreneur who started out selling fish before turning to second-hand clothing and opening a small restaurant in her home.

Selling fish wasn’t Adela’s calling in life, and she hated going to a dangerous part of her city to get the fish. Becoming a client of a local microfinance organisation, Microfinanzas Prisma, changed that. Getting a small loan turned her life around and Adela was able to start selling second-hand clothing from her home.

Business took off and she expanded into groceries. Adela’s entrepreneurial skills proved to be invaluable when sales were slower than the clothing she sold. After meeting with a loan officer, she closed the grocery business and opened a small restaurant in her home.

Kiva’s loan of $525 helped buy more stock for her established clothing business, and ingredients for the food to be sold in her new enterprise. Adela looks forward to more success from her business, which could only be possible thanks to a loan from Kiva.

Irma, Paraguay

Irma is a 51-year old married woman with three children who lives in Paraguay. Like the other female entrepreneurs featured in this article, she is hard working and driven. Irma has run a successful clothing and baby product store in the town of Santani for over ten years.

She is a natural entrepreneur, choosing to locate her business opposite a hospital where babies are born regularly, so she is perfectly placed to sell gifts to visiting relatives and new parents. Irma works from 7am to 5pm but opens until midnight during holidays.

Irma regularly travels to the capital Asunción, Argentina and Brazil to buy products and stock up for December and January, which is the busiest time of the year. January 6 (the celebration of the visit of the three wise men to baby Jesus or “dia de reyes”) and the preceding days are very good for business. Irma entices customers by putting shelves out in the street with her products.

Irma has used microloans in the past to refurbish her store. Lots of other shops in the town have had new looks and she didn’t want to fall behind. New flooring, painted walls and ceiling tiles were all done to create a new look. Kiva helped Irma get a loan for $200 to buy more stock and expand her business. She is proof that you can have a successful business, no matter your age or background.

Carmen, Guatemala

Carmen Beatriz is a married woman with one child from Guatemala. She started a business so she will able to provide her son with an education so he can get a good start in life.

Carmen buys women’s sweaters and traditional clothing wholesale in the capital, and sells them to friends, neighbours and fellow church-goers in her village of Cruz Blanca near the city of San Juan Sacatepeques.

Carmen is extremely enterprising, selling her clothing on credit. She is hard working and puts in as many hours as she can, while still taking care of her young son. Her husband helps her whenever possible, and Carmen is confident of her business’s success.

Carmen, unfortunately, was robbed in 2008 and lost a large amount of money. Kiva’s lenders let her borrow $1,200 to buy more stock and make sure her business would not suffer. Her entrepreneurial spirit was seen again in 2009.

The global recession affected her business, so she shifted from selling traditional clothing to groceries and other goods. This new business is thriving thanks to Kiva. Carmen’s story of surviving through adversity is a story we can all learn from.

Cristina, Philippines

Cristina is a 43-year old married woman with children who lives in the Philippines. She sells and makes peanut butter. Her aim, like many entrepreneurs in developing countries, is to give her children a better future. She will do whatever it takes to achieve this, and her energy and drive are inspiring.

Cristina wants to be successful and manages her business well. She is hard working and is doing her best to become as productive as possible in her manufacturing business, encouraging her husband Ronald to work alongside her.

Cristina wanted to expand her business, so she approached Kiva. Her $100 loan helped increase sales and improve her family’s living standards, ensuring her children will get the education, food and clothing needed for a good start in life.

Aayda, Lebanon

Aayda is a 22-year old woman who lives in Lebanon with her parents. Aayda has been selling beauty products and women’s accessories since 2008. Kiva helped her get a loan for $1,000 to buy more stock and expand her business.

Aayda has a flair for selling and treats her clients well. She decided to run a business because she wanted to work and be independent. In the future, Aayda plans on growing her business even further.


These 8 female entrepreneurs have shown how it is possible to create a thriving business thanks to a microloan arranged through Kiva. Their inspiring stories show that you can create a successful enterprise with hard work, sheer determination and the drive to continue even when times are tough.


Guest post contributed by Elizabeth Goldman, freelance writer and soon-to-be online entrepreneur, on behalf of – one of the largest corporate supporters of Kiva. The thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not represent those held by or Women Unlimited.

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