by Helene Dudley (Colombia-65) and Andrew Koch (CII-9)

In Fundacion, it is all about the partnerships. Yarmila Altamar, a 46 year old single mother and entrepreneur created La Olla Milagrosa in 2015 to serve an impoverished Fundacion community. In November, 2016, when Andrew Koch, a Community and Economic Development Peace Corps Volunteer arrived on the scene, she was already looking for a way to make Olla’s services sustainable.  As part of Peace Corps training, Andrew participated in an October presentation about TCP Global’s micro-loan program, which provides a funding stream for effective grassroots organizations like Olla Milagrosa. He connected Yarmila with TCP Global and an agreement was entered on April 6th. Business training was made a prerequisite for a loan in Fundacion and Andrew helped Olla develop training materials for entrepreneurial attitudes, SWOT analyses, marketing, accounting and budgeting.

Andrew immediately saw another partnership opportunity with the National Agency for Vocational Training (SENA).  Through his work with 11th graders enrolled in SENA’s technical accounting degree program at the high school Tercera Mixta, Andrew noted that only three students had graduated with the SENA degree in 2016 because most were unable to find a suitable 440 hour internship.

Working with the students, school staff and Olla Milagrosa, Andrew helped establish internships as business advisors for twelve students, thus helping the students complete their 440 hour requirement by participating in the ten training sessions for prospective loan recipients and then helping them write and present their business plans at a May 31st graduation ceremony. The business plans consisted of mission/vision statements, histories of the business, competitive analysis, target markets, marketing strategies, administrative plans, and budgets. Andrew recognized that the nine women and one man micro-entrepreneurs were already applying a majority of these strategies in their small businesses. In many cases the training just helped them articulate what they were already doing and establish achievable goals.

Thanks to TCP Global’s own strategic partnerships, Olla received $1500 in late June, which was immediately distributed as $150 loans. The NPCA Community fund partners with TCP Global as its 501c3, while Friends of Colombia and Rotary have provided significant financial support over the years The allocation to Olla was funded with $500 from a Rotary District grant and $1000 from Friends of Colombia.

None of the entrepreneurs in the Olla program currently have bank accounts and all have past experience with ‘pagadiarios’ which charge up to 20% per month in interest, making it very difficult for a small business to prosper and grow.  Now that they have affordable loans and continued assistance in accounting and budgeting from the students they and their businesses have a brighter future. One of the objectives of TCP Global is to help entrepreneurs such as these enter the formal economy. After establishing good credit with TCP Global loans, entrepreneurs in other sites have successfully accessed bank loans.

More and larger business administration classes are in the pipeline for August with grander plans of forming new businesses in the impoverished neighborhood that Yasmila and Olla Milagrosa serve. Andrew Koch has facilitated significant change in just the first 8 months. Thanks to strong partnerships that he helped establish, Olla Mlagrosa is on the path to the sustainable development that Yasmila envisioned.