Small loans can make a big impact on those living in poverty, Tracey Pettengill Turner says. Jean talks with Tracey, a social entrepreneur and the founder of MicroPlace, about how her company is working to help end global poverty by connecting small investors with people in developing countries who need small-business loans.
Tracey says MicroPlace helps the working poor in developing countries get small loans in amounts that are usually less than $200. With the help of local organizations called microfinance institutions, 100 percent of the loan money goes into the hands of these individuals—perhaps a basket weaver in Kenya, a seamstress in India or a farmer in Honduras—who then use the loan to enhance or grow their small business.
The loans are repaid with interest, which is used to cover MicroPlace's small fees and pay back the investor. Currently, there have been no defaults on any of the loans, Tracey says, as each microborrower is researched extensively and maintains a close relationship with their loan officer. While current returns are averaging a modest three percent, Tracey says she expects higher returns as the company and the microlending industry grow. "You can feel pretty good that you're making a wise investment," she says.
The more important incentive for investors is the knowledge that they are becoming part of a sustainable, profitable way to end global poverty, Tracey says. "You're empowering yourself because you're investing, and then you can get your money back with a return, and you're empowering the working poor and enabling them to lift themselves from poverty," she says.