I will never forget when Dorothy said to me: “I don’t have to beg my husband for money anymore. Now he comes to me.”
Ah yes, the power of microfinance and the undeniable truth that if you support women, you support the whole community.
At the time, I was sitting in a small, mud brick building in a tiny village in regional Malawi. It was raining and hot; boy, was it hot. I was delicately balanced on a small, rickety stool and listening intently to a series of women answering my questions through an interpreter. In the other room, the rest of the group continued on with their meeting to pay back that fortnight’s loan instalment and then listen to vital business advice that would help them grow their businesses.
MicroLoan Foundation Australia has funded thousands of loans to women in the Mulanje region of this southern African country. When my darling mum and I visited in late December 2014, we were fascinated by the women and their stories … probably as fascinated as they were about us!
But differences aside, business is universal. I remember they were learning about market research and everything the loan officer was telling them was something that I had done with my own small business, prior to and since establishing The Shoe Garden in 2012.
I knew from the moment that I decided to open a women’s shoe shop specialising in longer sizes that I wanted it to be a not-just-for-profit.
That means that giving back is embedded into my business.
It’s not negotiable.
It happens every day on every sale.
And it’s transparent. Each month I faithfully record on my website how much I have donated from the previous month’s sales.
Two years in and I’m super duper proud to announce that I have helped to raise $19,047.55.
Of this amount, $13,086.25 has come from donations that I make, ranging from 25c to $5, from everything sold in-store or online for the past two years. I thought this was the best way … to tie my monthly donations to sales in order to make my giving back sustainable.
Through my Shop Share Care program, a further $5,961.30 has been donated and fundraised by my darling customers, peers, friends and family.
Just look at what we can do together!
This means women who are typically marginalised because they are poor and because they are women are given trust and respect (and a small loan) and encouraged to support one another as well as given valuable lessons in business.
It means wives don’t have to beg husbands anymore (go Dorothy!) and young women like Estery who I so enjoyed meeting can build a house for her mum and be happy that her mum is incredibly proud of her.
So many stories and so much more to do.
Until next time,