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Simply a Steward

Written and translated by Ebelina Arteaga, Honduras Together Manger, as told by Jose.

Jose is a young Honduran father. He attends Lifeline’s Ocotillo Christian Church, and is one of its strongest leaders, serving as a Sunday school teacher, facilities helper, and house church leader. 

Jose recently applied for a microloan through Lifeline’s Economic Empowerment program, which includes a required small business training program, a biblical framework for entrepreneurs, and a business mentoring program, all run through a local church committee. 

Having now completed the training and received his microloan, he is ready to expand his business and is excited about the future! His produce stand is ready to grow and provide better services and products for the community.  This is Jose's story:

Jose receiving microloan checkJose receiving his microloan check

I used to run a grocery stand on the side of a street in downtown San Pedro Sula. It wasn't a good area for a grocery stand. I didn’t make many sales, and frequently I allowed people to take produce with the promise that they’d pay me back. This practice hurt my business. I eventually went bankrupt and had to take a job in a dairy store where I was paid only minimum wage. Life was difficult, but I managed to provide essentials for my family.

But, when I was still running my grocery stand, I often watched a man who had a fruit stand near me. I became intrigued by the idea of a produce stand as a possible alternative business.

I did some research in the neighborhood where I live to see if a produce stand could fill a void there. I found that no one else had a similar business. My friends urged me forward! I began to think that a produce stand could be profitable if it was based on a solid business plan, so I decided to give it a try.

Jose on motorcycleAt first, I made some mistakes and encountered some obstacles. I was buying too many fruits and vegetables for the stand. I was not yet experienced enough to know what produce would be most the most requested, which meant that often, the abundance of produce rotted and had to be discarded. It took awhile for me to learn which products I should purchase daily and which products would sell more slowly or would be in lower demand. I was also challenged with transportation difficulties. Having to rely on a motorcycle on dangerous roads, I struggled to make the runs to my vendors to bring produce back to my stand.

Before participating in Lifeline's Economic Empowerment training, I didn't know how to run a business well. Through it, I learned many valuable skills, including customer service, communication, product profitability, business accounting and organization practices, and financial management and forecasting. The training program was so helpful and motivating! Now I know how to run the business! I know what I should and should not do. I know how to treat and talk to customers. 

The produce stand is so profitable that through it I can earn enough to support my family and have a savings account! I do not have to have a second job. I am now planning to expand the business. Through the profits, I have been able to pay back my debts from the grocery business and avoid new debts.

In my agreements with the Economic Empowerment committee, I was required to attend all of the training sessions, present and get approval on a business plan, and make prompt payments on the microloan. Several people on the committee have been helpful mentors and guides for me.

moto pick-upWith the microloan, I have expanded my produce selection and have acquired a moto pick-up, which will help me every day with transporting produce from my vendors to my produce stand. I am making regular payments. I am already seeing business profits increase since receiving the microloan!

Jose expanding his businessEconomic Empowerment is a very valuable program. At the beginning I was afraid, but the training helped me to be positive and gain confidence. I know I am providing a needed service to the community and that it is helping relieve strain on families; people no longer have to travel downtown to get what they need, and my prices are affordable. 

I now understand that I am not the owner of this business; I am simply a steward of God’s resources. He has taught me to be a good administrator of what He owns. I have learned to remind myself regularly, saying, "I don't have a business; I am just an employee of the Lord.” I also learned the importance of tithing from the business’s profits. God has taught me that He is a generous God and has blessed me in many ways…. and I want to honor Him by being a generous steward of what he has entrusted to me.

Learn how YOU can empower small business owners like Jose with Economic Empowerment microloans. Contact Matt Termeer at matt.termeer@lifeline.org if you'd like additional information!
 
Jose at his stand