Having been in business for just over a year now, and lending for almost a year, I thought I could begin celebrating some success stories – proof that microfinance is working in the Welsh context. I visited one of my early borrowers yesterday. He borrowed a small amount to enable him to open a barber’s shop- he was recovering from a difficult past which had included a period of depression and unemployment but he had dragged himself out of that to the point of being able to start his own business. That history and perhaps also the small size of the loan he needed, meant that no mainstream lender would back him – however Purple Shoots did. He opened a small shop a little out of the way in Rhydfelin in the Rhondda Valley – only 6 or 7 months later, he has funded his own move to larger premises in the centre of the village, refurbished them to look really classy with new flooring, new ceiling, new furniture etc and has taken on one member of staff. His success is very evident – and the shop (“Studz”) is busy – and all repayments to Purple Shoots have been met. In addition he is proof of one of the big strengths of the Welsh valleys’ communities and that is their loyalty to their community – because he is local, the locals support his business and in turn he is aiming to support his community when he can.
Another one of my early borrowers has done a similar thing – starting with a small boutique a little out of Maesteg called Angel Candy Boutique, she has now taken over a shop right in the centre of town, a better location for her but also contributing to the regeneration of that town centre. She has grown her business through clever use of the market – developing a niche offering quality but inexpensive special occasion dresses, and especially targeting local schools with ball gowns for their proms, keeping careful records so that no girl from the same school is sold the same dress!