Investours – Banderas Bay Micro Finance Tours

Last week, or so, I was able to finally go on one of the better side excursions I’ve been on in the Puerto Vallarta area. Where did I go? On an Investours trip to see 3 local merchants that they’re providing relief for in the Bucerias area. I also learned a lot of things about the stuff that they’re doing, and how Micro Financing is done in Mexico. What are micro loans? They’re loans that are given to small business owners that can’t afford, or can’t get more traditional types of loans from banks or credit unions, except in México, some micro-financing can cost as much as 120%!

Se Mas is the organisation that Investours works with, and they charge half as much as this rate, plus they also help the loanee by providing accounting training, business classes, and coaching to their clients as a part of the terms of their loan. Se Mas is an important part of the micro financing that is able to provide these small business owners with the much needed funds to start up their dreams. So what does Investours do?  The short answer is that they provide tours to increase awareness in the community and with visitors, and help to pay off some of the interest on these high interest loans. From their site.

Investours is a start-up non-profit organization which combines the power of microfinance and tourism in the form of “microfinance tours.” Developing the concept for the first time, the founders of Investours ran a successful pilot program in Oaxaca, Mexico. We learned from our pilot program that these tours have the power to change the lives of microentrepreneurs, allowing them to invest in their lives, families, and communities in a way they couldn’t before. And these tours have the power to change the lives of our tour participants, allowing them to engage first-hand in the poverty-fighting phenomenon that is microfinance.

Our tour started off at the town plaza in Bucerias where we met some of the directors of the group, Corrina Jacobs,and Elly Rohrer, some of their volunteers and tour participants. We started with a taste of some of the local agua frescas, and introductions to some of the other visitors that were on the tour. We learned of the 3 potential loan candidates, and how the funds taken by this excursion would be spent to help these people who wouldn’t ordinarily be eligible for bank loans because they didn’t have credit or the amounts that they needed didn’t qualify.

The first participant was a seamstress by the name of Lorena. She explained her business, and how she worked around 10 hours a day on top of caring for 3 children, and one adopted child in her small house, while her husband sold silver jewelry to tourists on the beach. Her story was both compelling and inspiring as she had taken a few hour training session from a friend on how to sew beach sun dresses, and turned this training into a much needed income stream to support her and her family. She also explained her business model, and it was clear that for the work she was doing would be difficult to further finance her business and purchase much needed supplies and equipment to grow her product line. She also explained, that because of the high interest rates that she was paying on her loan to start the business, that she needed funds just to keep up with the interest payments, this was the primary interest in her request for a loan from Investours, to help pay off the interest so that she could get assistance in completely paying off her loan, so that she wouldn’t have such a high amount of debt.

The second merchant, Alejandro,  we visited was a community center organizer who among a few things, created a safe haven for children between the ages of 7-14. In one small room, he explained how he managed to keep up to 26 very active children occupied by making crafts for fairs, and festivals and as a reward some dancing classes. The merchant also explained how he could earn income by some of the crafts that the children and he created in order to purchase more supplies but also to give some of the funds to the children so that they could take it home, and provide some relief to their families.

The 3rd potential applicant, Lupita, created and sold piñatas made in the traditional Mexican way with a clay pot in the center to hold the toys and candies. After she divulged her costs for the paper and supplies, plus the clay pots and due to the competition keeping the prices very low, that she would not be able to fund much in the way from her revenues which was the reason she was hoping to gain assistance from Investours. After the tour, the group was taken to another local Bucerias eatery, and client where the group talked about ideas taken from personal professional experience, and applied in conversation about ways that could be used to help these three candidates.

Cuponismo had signed up for the corporate sponsorship program, and was told that our loan would be going to finance Loreta, the seamstress’s loan. For the cost to fund this loan, I can tell you it is great value for the amount of good that can be actually done with a relatively small amount of money. If you, or your corporation, company are looking for way to help out in the Banderas Bay region, Investours is a great investment in your enhancing your social well being, while contributing to your community. If you agree with this, please go to their Facebook page, and Like them.

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