Micro Loans Help Women Start Businesses

By: Jaime McCutcheon Email
By: Jaime McCutcheon Email

For some women, looking to start or better their own business, money isn't always easy to come by. When banks aren't a possibility, where can women turn? Micro loans have helped millions of women internationally, and now Omaha is one of only two cities so far being serviced by a long-standing micro loan group. And low income women are finding empowerment.

Karmina Ortiz's store on 24th Street is stocked full with everything a woman needs to dress with flair, clothes, sunglasses and jewelry. Running a small business has really helped this mom.

Store owner Karmina Ortiz says, “it's helped me a lot because my husband is actually here helping me too and I was able to leave my other job, so I have more time with my daughter now."

But her store hasn't always looked this full. In July, Ortiz went looking for a loan "because I needed to expand my inventory to get more stuff."

Just down the street, Fabiola Hernandez was anxious to start her own clothing shop. "I always wanted to have a clothes business for the kids, so I can spend more time with my kids, which I have three."

But in South Omaha, loans for entrepreneurial women are not easy to come by. That is, unless you talk to Habib Chowdhury.

Habib Chowdhury with Grameen America says, "Grameen America provides a small loan to the low income level women to do any kind of a small business."

Grameen America is an offset of Grameen Bank, which has helped to empower millions of women internationally for decades through small business loans. "They will get the loan in a total amount at the time, but they have the opportunity to pay back by weekly installments with a small amount of an installment," explains Chowdhury.

The loans women like can get aren't big, no more than $1,500 on the first loan. But the interest rate is manageable, basically one dollar a week for every $500 borrowed.

"Payments for the loan are very, it's very flexible, is very comfortable for me," says Ortiz.

And the best part is the loans help make women and communities stronger through building businesses.

Women must form in a group of five to get loans, although each receives her own loan for her own business. The first Omaha loan was handed out in June 2009, and so far there are 310 borrowers in all.

For more information, you can call Habib Chowdhury with Grameen America at (402) 203-1205 or Erica at (402) 850-0476. Or you can go to the website Grameen America.

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