By most accounts, Enoelia del Carmen Centeno, a single mother of two living in the northern Nicaraguan city of Matagalpa, is no one special. Like most of the 45% of Nicaraguans who live below the poverty line, she rises before dawn and works hard all day, yet struggles to feed her family. But after meeting with Doña Enoelia, representatives from Trickle Up’s partner agency ODESAR knew she was quite special.
Trickle Up’s work is implemented by local partner agencies like ODESAR because local partners understand our target population and choose each participant carefully. ODESAR learned Doña Enoelia was in debt to the cornmeal supplier for the raw materials for her tortilla stand; they also noted she was clearly muy emprendedora – con ganas de trabajar – “very enterprising, with a great will to work.”
After being selected by ODESAR to participate in Trickle Up, Doña Enoelia recieved business training and $100 in seed capital which enabled her to transition away from debt-based supplier finance, with its accompanying interest payments, to having sufficient working capital to purchase wholesale, with its inherent savings. With her grant from Trickle Up Doña Enoelia paid off her debt and bought 200 pounds of cornmeal and 300 firewood sticks. ODESAR also connected Doña Enoelia to an organization that provides free day care and a healthy lunch for her three-year-old.
When ODESAR conducted their business report six months later, they were impressed, though not surprised, by Doña Enoelia’s progress. By applying the concepts she had learned through the business training provided by Trickle Up – which stresses the importance of reinvesting business profits – she had expanded the scale of her business, and her profits climbed to $110 per month. She was able to purchase her stall instead of renting it for $3.50 a day, and had enough volume (1,200 tortillas a day) to hire two people to help her in the business.
As a result, Doña Enoelia can now provide more nutritious food and better clothing for her family. “There are days that we’ve earned up to $10 a day in profits. We eat chicken on those days,” she says with a smile. Given the success of her tortilla business Doña Enoelia is optimistic. She can afford medical treatments for her son, who has difficulty walking because of calcium deficiency that has deteriorated his thigh bone, and is saving for an operation for him. And with the assets she has accumulated and the increased and more reliable income, she now qualifies for a microcredit loan to buy another gas cylinder and stovetop to expand her tortilla stall.
“Trickle Up placed great trust in me. They didn’t ask for collateral,” Doña Enoelia says. “I used to feel like my hands were tied. There was no one to tell you, ‘Here is some money to work with.’ Many mothers have the desire and are eager to work, but they don’t have a way to get a foothold.” She recalled the embarrassment of having to borrow from neighbors and the pain she felt as a mother who was unable to feed her own children a proper meal. “That’s all in the past,” Doña Enoelia says now. “All things of the past that won’t happen again.”
Funding for the work of ODESAR came from Irwin Jungreis and the Schiffman Foundation.