Guancaste is a coastal region of Costa Rica with a flourishing tourism industry that has yet to alleviate high levels of poverty. Because of the tourist trade, Kenneth Guzman Zuniga, born and raised in the area, saw an opportunity for entrepreneurship in Guancaste’s abundance of hotels and restaurants, and six months ago he began his own lettuce business.
Though he was beginning to see success in selling his produce to local hotels, Zuniga had, like other people in Guancaste, little access to educational programs and virtually no training at all in running a business. This changed for him, however, with his participation in ProLiteracy and Grupo FINCA Costa Rica financial literacy training.
Alesha Anderson, ProLiteracy’s international program manager, visited Guancaste in July to train with FINCA Costa Rica “village banks,” or credit agencies, in order to give community leaders the tools to improve and grow their small businesses. Over the course of two full days, 48 local village bank leaders learned a financial literacy model called the six Ps: Plan, Product, Process, Promotion, Price, and Paperwork.
Developed by Lynn Curtis, senior advisor for international programs at ProLiteracy, the six Ps teach skills such as keeping records, applying for credit loans, and monitoring business growth. Each of these FINCA leaders will then organize their own community learning programs to train at least 20 clients in the six Ps.
“The training is very participatory and interactive,” said Anderson. “And we had a nice range of people: those who were just starting off and others who had really good, solid businesses in place.”
Financial literacy training is important in an area like Guancaste because of the large number of citizens who are capitalizing on tourism by becoming entrepreneurs but who lack formal education in how to run a business. “Most microfinance agencies are just focused on loan repayment,” said Anderson. “So the fact that FINCA Costa Rica sets itself apart as an agency that also invests in its clients’ education and training is huge.”
Olger Suyiga Archena, a Guancaste entrepreneur who participated in ProLiteracy training in October of 2011, is a success story that highlights the significance of such programs. Archena has seen 95 percent growth in his personal business since he began implementing the six Ps, and he is enthusiastic about his plans to open a second business next month.
As for more recent program participants, like Zuniga, these local business owners are already seeing the difference as well. Zuniga “was extremely grateful for the training,” Anderson said. “He was about to launch a new growth phase of his business and was really able to apply everything he learned.”
For more information about ProLiteracy’s international work, visit www.proliteracy.org/international or contact Alesha Anderson, international programs manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.