Tag Archives: microfinance

PeopleFund: The “Economic Gardeners” of Texas

As part of our mission at Soap Hope, we invest 100% of our profits into programs that support and empower women around the world. One of those programs is PeopleFund, which was founded here in Texas in 1994.

The state of Texas has long been lauded as one of the best states to start a small business. With low taxes, low cost of living, and a high job growth rate, it’s an ideal environment for entrepreneurs to thrive.

But the resources that might be available to Texans aren’t always accessible to everyone who want to start a business.

Enter PeopleFund, a microlending program and business assistance nonprofit that provides small business loans to those with limited access to resources.

The PeopleFund Mission

Since being  founded in 1994 in Austin, Texas, the financial and educational assistance PeopleFund provides “has helped create thousands of jobs and empowered an even greater number of Texans on a path to financial stability and independence.”

PeopleFund not only issues small business loans to the underserved, but also offers business education and a host of workshops and programs to support the entrepreneurs that are participating.

According to their mission, the goal of PeopleFund ” is to give people the opportunity to turn their talents into a sustainable livelihood and achieve financial stability for themselves and their families.”

Andrea’s Story

Andrea Thomas is a savvy and resourceful business owner, here in Dallas, Texas. Her background as an architect — full of long hours and high demand — was preparation for an even more intense vocation: being a mother.

Andrea PeopleFundAndrea is a devoted parent, and when her daughter developed eczema, she knew she had to do something about it — and that’s how ScratchMeNots was born.

ScratchMeNots are designed to be worn as a cardigan, and were originally created to prevent children from scratching themselves. The clothing is also made from certified organic cotton and bamboo, for kiddos with sensitive skin.

When Andrea realized she needed capital to help grow her business, she turned to PeopleFund.

The financing that Andrea received allowed her to not only invest in more inventory, but she was able to respond her immediate customer demand, so that ScratchMeNots could meet its projected goals.

“PeopleFund has helped us gift parents with peace and their children with relief,” says Andrea.

And we’re thrilled here at Soap Hope to work with PeopleFund so that we can tackle widespread issues and continue empowering women — at home and abroad.
To learn more about PeopleFund, visit their website.

Check out Soap Hope’s mission and how we’re changing the world, one bar of soap at a time.

 

Esperanza International: Addressing Poverty by Creating Real Opportunity

It’s important to us at Soap Hope to make a greater impact.

Our mission incorporates both our dedication to providing natural and safe products for our customers, as well as our commitment to making opportunities available to underprivileged women around the world.

We do that by partnering with organizations like Esperanza International, a nonprofit that focuses on freeing children and their families from poverty.

Bienvenida’s Story

When we first partnered with Esperanza, our cofounder, Salah Boukadoum had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic, to witness the impact that our organizations were making in communities in underserved countries.

That’s where Salah met Bienvenida, an entrepreneur who was able to grow her business through her own determination and with support from funds that she received.

“She started with nothing but vision and commitment,” Salah said. “With the support of a few small loans and training, and through her own hard work and dedication over many years, Bienvenida now has a convenience store, a restaurant, and a home anyone would be proud of.”

Bienvenida is a shining example of how entrepreneurship can change lives
Bienvenida is a shining example of how entrepreneurship can change lives

Bienvenida chose to build her home in the neighborhood she was a part of, demonstrating her own commitment to strong community and hope for the future.

Esperanza Means Hope

Eighty-seven percent of the loans that Esperanza disburses goes to women. Strictly from a business standpoint, women are more likely to pay back their loans and are less of a credit risk. Women like Bienvenida use their earnings to help educate their children and do good in their community.

Women like Bienvenida are key players in ending poverty and building up communities that are underserved.

“People do break out of the cycle of poverty,” says Esperanza International’s founder, Dave Valle. With financial support from organizations like Esperanza, serious issues like poverty can be addressed in the Dominican Republic.

And Esperanza doesn’t only provide microfinancing for these individuals. Their “microfinance plus” model is designed to address poverty and community development through a combination of financial services and health and education initiatives.

“It is designed to address the cultural, social, spiritual and economic forces that frequently prevent families from breaking the chains of poverty, so that they can be free to create their own brighter futures.”

Esperanza implements a number of programs focused on vocational training, literacy, health and hygiene. Health screenings and dental care are also made available in the communities where Esperanza works, helping individuals to “prevent various infections and illnesses, make nutritionally-sound dietary choices, create STD and HIV awareness, conduct self-exams for breast cancer, and encourage participation in cervical cancer testing.”

Esperanza recently announced that they’ll offer micro-insurance, the first product of its kind in the Dominican Republic.

“We are always looking for new ways to help children and their families and we know that one of the most vulnerable areas for our associates is their health. This is due to a deficient healthcare system in the DR, especially within the public hospitals.  This service will give them to the ability to go to private clinics for treatment.”

And it’s through the opportunities that Esperanza makes available to women like Bienvenida that we can start to tackle widespread issues like poverty and education. It’s through these opportunities that we can spread hope.

To learn more about Esperanza International, visit their site here.

To learn more about Soap Hope’s mission, you can click here.

And remember — every dollar that you spend at Soap Hope goes towards a program like Esperanza. You can shop and spread hope by visiting our Soap Hope store.

 

(Image credit: Esperanza International)

Good Intentions

If you’ve ever ordered from Soap Hope, you’ve seen a little scrap of folded paper fall out of one of your products when you unwrapped it. It says, “Can Shopping at Soap Hope Change the World?” In the packing room we call it the “Easter Egg” because it’s hidden in your order.

Like most things at Soap Hope, the Easter Egg is very intentional. We hide it in your package. It’s a symbol of extra impact that your order made, on a woman’s life far away from you. It’s a surprise to make sure you know about the mission of Soap Hope, even if you skipped the paperwork we include.

Inside the Easter Egg, we explain that we were inspired by Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus is known as the father of microfinance. His efforts have touched the lives of millions of women around the world. I’m driven every day by his achievements.

In 2010 I heard Dr. Yunus speak at Austin College in Texas. He told the story of a woman who lived in extreme poverty in a village in Bangladesh. She received a small loan to help start a personal business that could provide income for her. She took and repayed a number of loans over the years and slowly increased her standard of living. She was able to send her daughter to grade school – now the daughter could read, even though the mother could not. Through continued access to training and credit, she was able to afford to send her daughter to high school. Her daughter was able to fund her way through college, and then medical school.

Think about the change in the standard of living from mother to daughter – from a life of illiteracy and poverty to that of an independent woman with a career as a medical doctor, in one generation.

This opportunity is why we started Soap Hope. Can we realistically expect people here, with busy lives, families, and interests, to figure out how to send girls in Bangladesh to school? Maybe not – but Soap Hope can:

We partner with local institutions like the one established by Dr. Yunus. Since Soap Hope sells things that everyone needs for everyday life, and uses all the profits to fund loans for women so they can afford to do things like send their girls to school – that means now everyone can participate. Wash your hair with shampoo from Soap Hope – help teach a girl to read. Wash your dishes with dish soap from Soap Hope – help teach a girl algebra. Drink a cup of tea from Soap Hope – help empower a generation of women.

We’re intentional about the products we curate for you, the environmental impact of the box your order is packed in, the placement of the Easter Egg, the use of the profits your order generates. We do this so that you can simply shop for your everyday needs with us, and the rest is taken care of. But we do need your intention too: Remember Soap Hope. Remember to shop with us for your family. Remember to tell others about Soap Hope. Remember to share your thoughts and ideas with us about how to grow this movement.  It’s our actions together that matter.

Yours,

Salah

You know by now that every bar of soap purchased from us funds one day of a woman’s business – “a bar of soap is a day of hope.” If you’re a follower, you also know by now that I want to sell one millions bars of soap, to create one million days of hope. Let’s tell a million people about it, and get this done. #milliondaysofhope

Beginnings

Salah's Itinerary
I ran across the itinerary for my 1993 six week concert tour through Africa and the Middle East.

 

Prelude

Some of you know that I started my working life as a classical pianist, not as an entrepreneur. In 1993 I was very lucky to go on a six week international tour through Africa and the Middle East, traveling through almost a dozen countries and playing concerts in national theaters, universities, and ambassadors’ halls.

The core idea behind Soap Hope really started all those years ago. After one concert, I had the fortune to spend time with the Director of the World Bank in Kenya. He explained to me about his efforts to address poverty in Kenya. He told me that of every ten dollars sent to alleviate poverty in Kenya, nine went to corruption.

That challenge stuck with me for years: only 10% of the aid that was intended for the extreme poor was making it to those who needed it.

Main Event

It was three companies and 15 years later that Soap Hope was born. When we designed our model for addressing world problems, we wanted to learn from the lessons of that evening in Nairobi. We didn’t want 90% of our effort lost. The Good Returns model was born.

We don’t give money away – we invest in women. When you buy your household products every month from Soap Hope, we send all the profits to women – every dollar – so they can start or expand their own small enterprises around the world, whether in Kenya, or in the Dominican Republic, or right here in Dallas.

How do I know the money isn’t being lost? Because every dollar is repaid after one year, interest-free. We don’t take anything out of our company until those profits are returned. Only then do we get the rewards of our entrepreneurship.

Our intention is to provide opportunity with accountability: yes, all of our business profits are loaned interest free, but all of those profits are required to be returned after they have done good in the world for one year. This approach puts us and those we help on the same page, responsible to each other.

Our vision is to take Soap Hope from the small business it is today to a nationally recognized enterprise, serving millions of customers and millions of women around the world. Then we want to teach many other companies to do the same. I’m so grateful and delighted that you have been an early adopter, creating this vision with us by shopping at Soap Hope and sharing the Soap Hope story.

Encore

I still love music and playing the piano, and when the day comes that Soap Hope is big enough to operate without me every day, I will start working on concert material again. The next time around, I want to play fundraiser concerts to raise awareness and money for sustainable social enterprises. I hope you’ll join me then too.

Yours,

Salah

Salah Boukadoum
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
salah@soaphope.com

 

#LikeAWoman

You’ve probably seen the “#LikeAGirl” video that debuted not long ago. If you haven’t, take a minute to watch it – it’s inspiring and eye-opening.

At Soap Hope we often think about how perceptions of women either empower or limit people. Why do we invest in women? Here are some amazing facts about the behavior of women that inspire us:

  • Women consistently reinvest a much larger percentage of earnings into their own families and communities than men do. This behavior creates opportunity and advancement for more people.
  • The more economic and political participation of women there is in a country, the more stable that country is likely to be.
  • The more women there are in the legislature of a country, the lower the level of corruption is likely to be.
  • Women are far more likely than men to repay a business loan.

In short: it’s smart to invest in women.

Soap Hope was founded (by two men, incidentally) on the belief that solving humanity’s greatest problems will require balanced participation by women in all aspects of society, especially decision-making and leadership. We decided to focus on women at the “bottom of the pyramid” – those who are most disadvantaged.

We choose to make our difference by empowering those women through entrepreneurship – and we’re serious about it. Every single dollar of profit that we earn goes to fund loan capital and education for women.

These women start and grow their businesses, changing the dynamic of their local societies by bringing success, hope and opportunity to them. We believe that this, too, can and will become a pervasive worldwide phenomenon.

Who wouldn’t want to invest in a person who saves like a woman, invests like a woman, plans like a woman, strengthens the community like a woman, and transforms the world like a woman? I know I would – how about you?

– Salah Boukadoum, Co-Founder, Soap Hope

If you want to participate, it’s easy: shop at Soap Hope, share the story with others in e-mail and social media, and please write us – we want to hear from you.