Bertha always had an entrepreneurial spirit. But with no credit history or collateral, she was unable to access a traditional bank loan that would allow her to fulfill her dream of expanding her family bakery in Los Angeles. After joining Grameen America and receiving her first microloan of $1,500, Bertha was able to buy baking ingredients in bulk. Now she and her husband travel across the state to meet popular demand for their pan dulce (sweet bread). Bertha has been given the tools to become an accomplished entrepreneur and create a better life for herself and her family.
To help more women like Bertha realize their dreams, the innovative microfinance model aimed at creating jobs, strengthening economies and alleviating poverty has officially arrived in Los Angeles County. The California Community Foundation, keeping with its mission to help improve the lives of the most vulnerable in Los Angeles County, partnered with Grameen America to bring this groundbreaking model to our community.
Grameen America's Los Angeles program has already invested more than $4.2 million in more than 2,000 women-owned small businesses. These women repay their loans at a staggering rate of 98 percent. Together, Grameen America, the California Community Foundation and other partners will:
Support low-income women who are not able to obtain traditional bank loans to grow their businesses;
Create and sustain jobs in the Los Angeles area;
Generate additional income for borrowers and their families;
Help borrowers build and establish credit history;
Build capacity for Los Angeles to serve as a regional base;
Expand to 13 branches within Los Angeles County, which in total will invest more than $650 million in 91,000 businesses; and
Provide more than 10 percent of all women living in poverty in Los Angeles County with the chance to build a small business.
While Los Angeles County is home to 300,000 women-owned businesses and more than one-third of its population is foreign born, there is also a high poverty rate among our 10 million residents. This unique landscape makes Los Angeles County a logical next step in Grameen America's expansion to regions that express the greatest need, but also the greatest opportunity for impact.
"Los Angeles County is the world. We have the highest concentration of immigrants, entrepreneurial individuals who come here to pursue a better life. There is no better laboratory than Los Angeles County for a program like Grameen microlending," said California Community Foundation President & CEO Antonia Hernandez. "California Community Foundation's partnership with Grameen America aims to unlock the economic potential that lies within our incredibly diverse communities, put women entrepreneurs on the path to success and improve the quality of life of Angelenos."
Grameen America combines financial training that teaches borrowers about loans, savings and credit building with weekly peer support meetings to keep borrowers on track for repayment. Women are empowered to take control of their finances and invest wisely in their businesses. They are given the opportunity to learn from other women who are going through the microloan process and share best practices.
"With its rich diversity and entrepreneurial sprit, Los Angeles is a priority market for us," said Grameen America President & CEO Andrea Jung. "What I've seen our members do with a $1,500 loan to totally transform their lives, to transform the lives of their families and to be such productive entrepreneurs in American society: it's the American dream. We look forward to expanding that opportunity to the women of Los Angeles."
Learn more about this initiative and contribute at www.calfund.org/Grameen and join the conversation on Twitter with #GrameenLA.