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Money Isn’t Everything

Most microentrepreneurs require financing to expand their businesses, but many of them also require training, says Maria Emma Jaramillo, head of the Business Development Unit of Colombia’s Fundación Carvajal. The problem is, the training has seldom been available to them. So Jaramillo’s unit created Centers for Productive Development, through which “we prepare microentrepreneurs to be more competitive,” she says. With some 3,000 clients already, the centers offer a wide array of courses, from technical assistance aimed at ensuring the optimum use of resources—renting out sewing machines when they are not in use, for instance—to specialized advisory services and technological training. Although the foundation subsidizes the operation, the services are not free. “We don’t give away the fish,” says Jaramillo, smiling. “Rather, we teach people how to fish.”

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Seeding Growth

Actuar Famiempresas, a rotating fund operating in the Colombian city of Medellín, had been loaning money to microentrepreneurs for about 10 years when its officers realized that the firms were still operating at the subsistence level. Accordingly, says the institution’s executive director, Amalia Arango de Arbelaez, the fund decided to provide support in the form of management and entrepreneurial training. It created a distribution channel so microentrepreneurs’ products could be sold in shops and department store chains and developed an Industrial Design Center to provide advisory assistance in design-related topics, from business letterhead to product packaging. But Arango is proudest of the Competitiveness Project, financed by the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and developed by the Technical University of Valencia. Launched in 1999, the project holds business-plan contests to develop microenterprises and provides integrated support to the winners, monitoring their progress. “We already have 140 microenterprises,” Arango says, “and the results have been excellent. What we are observing is not gradual growth, but rather progress by leaps and bounds.”