I recently travelled to the small Armenian town of Sevan to visit a Kiva partner’s branch office. Armenians flock to Sevan throughout the year to enjoy either a lazy day at the beach, attend a wedding reception, or just to visit the Sevanavank monastery, which is nestled atop a scenic mountain overlooking the Sevan Lake. Due to tourism, this town serves as an important marketplace where people from surrounding communities come to buy clothes, household goods, and food.
Upon my arrival at my MFI’s branch office the loan officers treated me to a feast of barbecued Sevan trout with a myriad of side dishes. I somehow managed to politely turn down multiple offers for vodka (it was lunchtime after all, and I was supposed to be working…), but I gladly took second helpings of fish, pickled rooster combs, wild mountain herbs, marinated olives, juicy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers.
After lunch we made our way to the center of town to meet a few new kiva borrowers. There were many small-scale clothes vendors seeking loans this month. With school starting in September many parents kick off the new year with a fresh set of clothes for their children. Access to micro-loans allows these vendors to stock up with more children’s clothing, allowing them meet the increased demand.
On our way out we stopped by a small “corner store” run by an entrepreneurial woman named Angela. She greeted us with an eager smile and a firm handshake. She is being featured on Kiva for her first time so she can get a loan to expand the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables in her shop. As our conversation continues I find out this is her 10th loan with Nor Horizon, Kiva’s partner MFI. She got her first loan in 2000 when she had a small clothing stand in Sevan’s main market. She grew her business with every loan, first hiring a helper, then opening a second clothing stand. She opened this small shop last year, and she plans to grow her new business with the same “can-do” attitude. Angela’s story is inspiring, and serves as a great example of the positive impact micro-finance can have for small-scale entrepreneurs.