Colombia is among the Latin American economies with some of the best growth indicators in more than 20 years. However, the global pandemic and recent social unrest have negatively affected the country's economy and threaten the survival of many micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Protecting the entrepreneurial fabric is essential in a context of economic recovery. Since 2018, the Graduar PYMES project has been working with four Colombian financial institutions to develop a specialized service offering adapted to the needs of MSMEs. A fifth financial institution, Fundación Amanecer, will now also receive support from the project to strengthen its financial services and its ability to assist entrepreneurs.
Training for entrepreneurs and financial institutions
This month Développement international Desjardins (DID) is launching a new hybrid training platform to facilitate knowledge transfer aimed at entrepreneurs and at financial institutions supporting growing micro and small businesses. DID has also signed a collaborative agreement with the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism to enhance the CREEce entrepreneurship support program for formalization, which is part of a national economic recovery initiative.
Support for entrepreneurs during the pandemic
In a recent study assessing the impact of the Graduar PYMES project, 78% of businesses surveyed reported that the assistance they received from a DID-supported financial institution allowed them to get through the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the pandemic, supported businesses were able to continue operating, maintain jobs and even benefit from certain market opportunities.
"It's not easy for a business to survive a pandemic, but it's also not easy to throw in the towel without trying one's hardest," explains José Alejandro García Castaño, President and CEO of SENTAL, a small food company based in Manizales that sells fruit-based products. "We're not only fighting to boost the economy of our region, but we're also working to represent our sector with great pride and passion around the world," he says. SENTAL employs 12 people, half of whom are women.
"At the end of 2020, I requested loans from different institutions to be able to incorporate my business," says Vanessa Castillo, owner of Tancanela, a company in Manizales that offers natural and environmentally friendly cosmetics. "Fortunately, in Finanfuturo, I could find a lot of facilities and incredible and efficient assistance from their employees. I was able to develop and register my brand identity, purchase packaging in large quantities to obtain lower prices and, above all, access exclusive product formulations in a lab that meets all quality standards," she explains. Today, her company has 13 employees, all of whom are women.