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Helping small business owners succeed

Haiti, January 11, 2012

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Two years after the devastating earthquake, small businesses are more crucial for Haiti’s economy than ever before.

In every town, on every street, shopkeepers, traders and craftsmen are working hard to provide their communities with the essential goods and services of daily life - and in so doing, lift their families from poverty. These small-scale entrepreneurs are vital in helping Haiti recover and rebuild after the terrible earthquake in 2010.

Yet these small business owners live day-to-day, with little cushion against unexpected shocks like natural disasters or a family member’s illness. When they’re knocked down by bad fortune, they often lack the resources to get up again. Haiti is especially vulnerable to catastrophes that can erase, in a moment, the years of labor a person has already invested in building a more secure life.

Mercy Corps has a number of projects to improve the economic stability of Haiti’s vulnerable business owners, including small loans, mentoring and financial training. But when our Haiti team saw how working people risk losing everything to the next disaster, they seized another opportunity to help.

Thanks to our supporters around the world, Mercy Corps has co-founded a new organization that offers affordable insurance to low-income entrepreneurs. This insurance gives a critical safety net so that when disaster strikes, business owners can quickly recover and keep building their enterprises.

We have already seen this model make a big difference to women entrepreneurs, the first customers to take advantage of it. Last June, heavy rains damaged many small businesses and their merchandise. But this time, instead of going under, nearly 4,000 female business owners got help. Their outstanding loans were forgiven, they received automatic payments of $125 – and they are pre-approved for new loans to restart their businesses.

With new solutions like this one, we’ll continue to help the hardworking entrepreneurs of Haiti get back on their feet. In time more and more will be able to succeed in the face of future crises, so they can continue to work, prosper and contribute to the economic recovery of their entire country.