Building a Better Business and Marriage: Sumarti's Story

Sumarti, a mother of five in Indonesia, runs a small canteen selling local food, pancakes and ice pops, turning her favorite hobby into a micro-business. "What I like to do in my life is cooking. It is something I will do until I grow old," she said.

Since joining a loan group in Jakarta, she has used micro-business loans of $85 to slowly develop and expand her business. She has also participated in business skills training workshops.

One of the best parts of the Five Talents program for Sumarti was a seminar on how to be a wise woman. Her marriage had been in trouble, and her husband, who was out of work, was often short-tempered.

"At the time when my husband had been out of work and easily lost his temper, we were thinking of going for a divorce. I remember my children and they were the reason why I had to bear with the situation. I had to keep my patience and to hold on. The loan from Gerhati did help me during difficult times; it kept me going."

"I got help from that seminar. It reminded me to be in a position that would sustain my relationship and get along with my husband," Sumarti said.

Today, her marriage is stronger than ever before. And having learned some valuable lessons, she has been able to mentor other women and help them through their own marital troubles. "I have gone through ups and downs in this life," Sumarti said.

"I help others by sharing my life with them."

Learn more about Five Talents work in Indonesia to empower entrepreneurs.

Losing a Job to Start a Business: Tina's Story

When Tina lost her factory job in Jakarta, Indonesia, her children, Putri and Willy, also lost the funds they needed to cover school fees for books and uniforms. Tina, 40, needed to act fast.

While her husband continued his work as a driver in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, Tina opened a small salon. Unfortunately, it was one of many in the neighborhood. While she was skilled in cutting and styling hair, her business did not survive, in part due to the cutthroat competition on her street.

So Tina took Putri and Willy with her to Cileungsi, a suburb of Bogor, which is about 60 km south of Jakarta. She once again set up a salon, and once again, it failed to generate any income. It was around this time that she learned about Five Talents' local partner in Indonesia, GERHATI. The project in Indonesia maintains three core programs that provide financial support, training, and technical assistance to poor entrepreneurs.

Tina joined the program and, before long, was able to take out a loan and invest in a business that GERHATI helped her to develop. With the microloan, she bought a small food cart and positioned it outside of a large school in her neighborhood. She stocked it with instant noodles, sodas, snacks, and sausages.

So far, Tina has been averaging a monthly profit of 200,000 Indonesian rupiahs, or $20. Most importantly, she is earning enough to cover her children's school expenses, which include the cost of uniforms ($60 a year), books ($10 per semester) and after-school care ($10 a month). Tina is also paying back her loan, while her husband's salary is used to pay for electricity, rent and daily needs.

Tina says that she wants her children to get the most out of school, so she does not ask them to do any housework. Her only request beyond studying hard? "Pray every day," she tells them.

Help more women like Tina escape poverty and build a brighter future. Your donation to Five Talents supports entrepreneurs with business skills training, savings group formation, mentorship, and financial services.

Micro-Enterprise Development in Indonesia: A Conversation with Five Talents Program Director Suzanne Middleton

Each of Five Talents' microfinance programs are tailored to meet the needs of the communities they serve. Here, Five Talents Program Director Suzanne Middleton explains how micro-lending, training and mentoring are transforming lives in Indonesia, where Five Talents partners with The GERHATI Foundation.

What makes the Indonesia program unique among our other programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America?
The Indonesia program is different to other Five Talents programs in two main ways. One, Five Talents was responsible for the development of this program from the very beginning, when the first request came from the Indonesian Anglican church for a micro-enterprise development program among the communities they serve. From board development and training to management and staff hiring and training, Five Talents has been the key partner from the start. Two, GERHATI's outreach is to predominantly Muslim communities. In fact, over 95 percent of the program recipients are Muslim.

If we were to take a walk through one of the communities served by Five Talents in Indonesia, what might we see, in terms of living conditions? What does the family unit look like in such communities?
Many of the communities suffer from poor or non-existent sanitation services, such as sewers or storm water drains. Access to clean water is often difficult and expensive. Many families – which, on average, consist of three to four children – make do with water from polluted water ways, and many suffer sicknesses as a result. Communities are often marked by uncollected rubbish, which pollutes the water ways and areas surrounding houses, attracting rats and other health hazards. Poorer communities are usually in areas prone to flooding, which occurs sometimes multiple times each year.

We talk a lot about the importance of Five Talents' local partnerships with indigenous organizations. Can you explain why such partners are critical to the success of the programs?
Helping indigenous communities and churches to help themselves and achieve meaningful empowerment and self-determination is at the core of the Five Talents mission. Assessing what key indigenous people want to achieve for their communities and country is crucial to working out the best methods of helping them achieve this. Partnering with a local organization enables Five Talents to align values and objectives to a well-governed and well-managed program that knows precisely what it wants to achieve and who to target. A strong local organization is well-grounded in its own environment and is there to stay.

Our partners are always striving to meet the needs of the women and men in the program. What are some of the ways that the Indonesia program has been evolving to meet members' needs?
GERHATI strives to "unlock" the natural gifts and strengths that people have through skills training and provision of a forum that enables them to discover, with each other in groups, the many different ways, individually and corporately, that will enhance their income, knowledge and general quality of life. Basic skills, such as numeracy, literacy, hygiene, book keeping, etc., can be taught by trainers who also encourage dialogue and discussions that help the group learn to work together.

In your mind, what's the measure of success for a program like this? What do you look for when evaluating the program's positive impact on individual group members and on the community at large?
One of the biggest indicators of success is the expression of hope for the future by the individuals and groups that our partner GERHATI works with. When people, after participating in the program for only a few months, begin to see new opportunities and possibilities for their families in terms of education, new business ventures and income opportunities and healthier living, then we can feel assured that the program is on the right track and its mission and vision is being achieved.

Financial Inclusion and Training Fuel Growth of Edo's Micro-Enterprises in Indonesia


The transformation you unlock when you give to Five Talents looks a little different in each community. For Edo in Indonesia, the transformation involved an expansion of her micro-enterprise and an escape from unhealthy living conditions.

Edo has built a micro-business around selling clothing, small electronics and – most recently – homemade fish crackers.

Business skills training and a series of micro-loans from Five Talents and our partner organization in Jakarta, The Gerhati Foundation, helped Edo to grow her profits, which she and her husband used to construct a humble new home.

Today, they have a roof over their head, a solid brick wall around them, and a safe, dry space full of hope for the future.

"I did not have the courage to own a house before -- even the small one," she said. "With Gerhati and Five Talents, we have built a small house bit by bit from what we earn."

The program, she said, gave her the support and determination she needed to make her dream a reality.

The program has also brought Edo closer to her community: "I got help from neighbors and friends, as well, during the building progress. I believe this help came from God."

The challenges that Edo faces with her business are fairly typical. For example, she shares that "it takes quite an enormous amount of capital to be able to sell electronic goods." And finding raw materials for her homemade fish crackers can sometimes be difficult.

Edo also allows customers to take out a line of credit with her in order to make purchases. Sometimes, she says, customers are unable to pay off their debt.

Still, she has become a trusted resource in the community. "I have been around for quite a long time so I have known my neighbors for some time," she said.

Edo, who is on her fifth loan cycle, has drawn especially close to other group members. In fact, it was from one of them that she learned about the fish cracker business.

"When I joined the group, one of them asked if I could help her sell fish crackers. I started by selling them to some kiosks I happen to know about. It's something new to me, and it's going quite well at the moment."

Such is the life of a micro-entrepreneur like Edo.

She sell clothes that she hand-picks from bulk markets. She pedals electronic items that might appeal to people in her community. And she works with a friend to produce and distribute fish crackers.

Every little bit of business contributes to the construction of her home – and to other dreams that now suddenly seem achievable.

"There is a vacant lot next to my house," Edo said. "Hopefully I can set up a kiosk -- even a small one -- and sell more items, like rice and top-up credit vouchers for mobile phones."

Make a donation to Five Talents today and help more women like Edo build a better life for themselves and their family.

Entrepreneur Supports Nine Dependents with Small Enterprise


Zawadi runs a fruit and vegetable stall in Iringa, Tanzania. She uses the income generated from her business to support nine people in total, including her parents and her parents-in-law. She said she would find it much harder to provide for all these people without the support she has received from the Mama Bahati Foundation that has helped her business to grow.

Patience and Attention to Detail Key to Eiber’s Growing Sandal-Making Business

Earlier this month, we shared the story of Eiber, a savings group member in Tarija, Bolivia.

Both Eiber and his wife, Marcia, take part in Five Talents' micro-savings and training program and have seen some remarkable changes in their lives and marriage.

In our first post, we focused on the couple's participation in training workshops. Here, the 30-year-old Eiber shares in his own words the successes and challenges of growing his sandal-making enterprise:

"Regarding my work, before I got married I was an assistant to my uncle. I remember that no one wanted me to help me [with] capital to form my micro-enterprise. But with the help of God, I was eventually able to obtain a loan. Now that I am a member of a savings group, I can help other people to bring together capital that they need. This makes me very happy.

I make 10 dozen flip-flops (leather sandals) a week because there is so much demand. When I [recently] received a group loan of 280 bolivianos ($40), I used all of it to buy some accessories that I needed for the flip-flops.

This week, a woman came to my workshop and asked me to make 30 dozen flip-flops so that she can take them to Oruro (another department in Bolivia). Since then, other people also have placed orders [to be sent to] the interior of the country.

This is a new experience, and I am excited.

I want to hire three more workers to make more flip-flops and store them for my clients. For this, I will join a rotating savings group that loans more money, because I want to travel to Santa Cruz to buy leather in bulk for the flip-flops.

The most difficult part of my job is making the soles of the flip-flops. I am the only one who does this on my work team, because it [requires] a lot of strength and patience to do it well. If I am not patient to measure with care the leather to the iron, I can lose a lot of money.

I believe that the craftsman is an artist."

Help us empower more craftsmen like Eiber: Make a gift to Five Talents today.

In Her Own Words: Matilda Discusses Saving and Developing a Micro-Enterprise in Bolivia

Matilda, a mother of four, was washing clothes for a living when she joined the Five Talents program in Tarija, Bolivia. Since then, her life has begun to change. She's saving for her children's education. She started a new micro-enterprise. And she's participated in workshops designed to equip her with new skills, such as marketing, accounting and goal-setting.

But we'll stop here and let Matilda tell her own compelling story, which has been translated from Spanish:

On saving money

"My husband and I had many problems saving. For years, we saved our money in a ceramic piggy bank that we kept in our house. It took us two years to save this money – the piggy bank was full of money, and we were happy because we had a lot of plans to invest the money.

One day, though, my sister came to visit me at my house, and I asked her if she could stay for a week so that I could go visit my parents in the country. When I returned, she had a lot of new clothes, shoes, and jewelry. I thought that she had bought all of this with her money, but three days after she left I was cleaning my things and I noticed that my piggy bank had a hole in it. Hardly any money remained. I was very angry – it was two years of savings, and I went to my sister to confirm my suspicions. My sister told me everything – she had robbed me. I was very frustrated because she had spent everything. Since then, I've had a hard time trusting anyone.

One day I was invited to be part of a savings group. I took a risk and joined, saving again, little by little. Everything went very well – it's a very serious and transparent group, so in the following years I continued to save a lot more money. And this year, my husband was very excited about all that we had saved in the group."

On developing a new micro-enterprise

"I had washed clothes for the last 15 years, and my hands were very battered. The doctor told me to stop washing clothes; if I didn't, I would lose my hands. So I was very worried, I didn't know what to do to work because on some occasions my husband's income was not enough. One friend told me that selling cosmetics was a good business, but I needed money for my capital investment. So we used the money that we had collected in the savings group to begin building a shop that I really wanted, and also to start my cosmetics business. Now I earn money and my hands do not suffer, and with the income we can help our children to study."

On establishing goals for herself and her family

"One of the workshops that I most enjoyed in the savings group was when I wrote our savings goals on paper. I had planned to use my money on something a little vain, but after we spoke in the group about making good investments, I changed my goal.

I remember that Sara and Eva [the group facilitators with our partner Semillas de Bendicion, or Seeds of Blessings] asked us to draw pictures with markers to identify our savings goals. The other option was to write them out. I don't know how to write very well. I never had liked to; in fact, I am scared to write. But on this day I wanted to write my savings goal: "I am saving for my children's studies."

I felt very good that day. I and all the other women that shared our goals – we wanted to change our situation, and so we were going to help one another to save. But the best of all is that we understand that saving should be the job of the whole family.

So I took this paper to my house and I spoke with my family that night about what Sara and Eva had said in the workshop, and my family was united even more to save. Then I hung the paper on the wall of our room so that the whole family can remember that we are saving for our children's studies.

This year, the whole family is saving in the savings group to finish building the shop and to continue using our income for our children's studies. My oldest son, Donato, 20, didn't finish studying because he wanted to work to help us. I am very sad because of this, so now when he returns from a trip I want to encourage him to study and finish school. My daughter Margarita, 16, also was working, but now she has quit her job because now she has money so that can study calmly [without worrying]. My younger children also are happy to study and are good students."