Do Good, Get Rich

Social warriors start businesses that improve the lives of African women

women’s group that produced them,” Zunguze says. “This way, customers have a connection with the artisans.”

According to Mudunwazi Baloyi, chief director of Global Bilateral Economic Relations at the Departent of Trade and

Industry in South Africa, the craft sector offers the opportunity for creative expression and preservation of African heritage. “It is also an accessible industry with low entry barriers in terms of skills and capital requirements. It cuts across many industries such as tourism, manufacturing, clothing, textiles, etc.”

Annual net sales in Zunguze’s first few years of operating the store part time averaged about $30,000. In May of 2007, she quit her statistician job with the county of Salt Lake to concentrate on the store full time. Net sales for 2007 rocketed to approximately $100,000. Her current goals include hiring office staff and field representatives to sell products at more trade shows, forging collaborations with other importers, and developing jewelry-making classes at her store for African refugee women in Salt Lake City. Her long-range goal is to design a workshop series to help indigenous African women develop fair-trade market opportunities, help them build their own microenterprises, and continue to provide design assistance. “I’m thrilled to uplift the lives of dozens of African women and give back to my homeland,” she says.

Turning Consumers into Mircolenders
Giving back has always been a priority to Fred Isler, a computer programmer from Unionville, Virginia. But when he learned of a Website that would let him fund entrepreneurial ventures in Africa, he realized that charities weren’t the only vehicle for sharing his wealth.

“With charities, you don’t really know where your money is going,” says the 49-year-old Isler. “This is better than a charity because you’re able to help somebody directly.”, which launched in 2005, lets consumers lend a minimum of $25 to their choice of prescreened entrepreneurs in developing countries. Microfinance institutions partner with the San Francisco-based company to identify the small business owners and disburse the funds to the local entrepreneurs. Defaulting on the loans is almost unheard of. With a default rate of only 0.14%, loans are typically repaid within three to 18 months, and users of the site can withdraw the money or lend it to another entrepreneur.

As of the end of March, nearly $26 million in loans have been distributed through in 42 countries. Since last April, Isler has loaned $5,775 to 229 different borrowers. So far, he’s been paid back $975 of that amount in monthly installments.

Through the site, consumers can see how much individual entrepreneurs need in total, how much of that amount has already been raised, and what the money will be used for. Consumers can also see the repayment terms up front.

“Our philosophy is to create a transparent microlending platform,” says spokeswoman Fiona Ramsey.

For more information, go to -Tamara E. Holmes

Other resources to get you started

  • The Microcredit Summit Campaign is the largest network of institutions involved in microfinance and microenterprise development. (
  • The Crafts Center at CHF International is a global network dedicated to supporting
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