Mentoring and Microfinancing

January is National Mentoring Month. When most people think of mentoring, they think of volunteers spending time with young people and helping them become adults. That is an important form of mentoring, but there are mentors that help adults as well. When mentoring is partnered with microfinance in the poorest parts of the world, people learn how to make their own opportunities to succeed. 

The newest mentoring opportunities in business are set up by organizations that want new businesses to bloom and grow. Business leaders can volunteer to share their knowledge with young entrepreneurs building their own businesses across the world.

MicroMentor provides small businesses with mentors who are willing to share their experience owning or managing businesses. Through telephone calls, MicroMentor mentors work with entrepreneurs so no in-person meetings are required. Agora Partnerships is another mentoring organization that focuses on young entrepreneurs who are addressing social and environmental problems in third world countries.

What’s great about these relationships is they don’t cost the new entrepreneurs anything but they can be invaluable. Struggling young businesses that have limited resources need knowledge to push through to the next level. These partnerships provide that knowledge. 

Sometimes businesses cannot move to the next level without money. Microfinance is the solution for many of the world’s poorest people.

Microfinance companies like Kiva ask people like you to lend as little as $25 to help companies start or expand a business. Since Kiva was founded in 2005 it has used 673,580 lenders to give $274 million in loans at a 98.9 percent repayment rate. Kiva presents the story of each business through it owner so you can choose where your money is going.

Microplace provides financial services to the poor as well but your money is an investment which you will be repaid with interest as well.  Microplace gives more general information about the people in a country that you will be helping, rather than their individual stories.

Opportunity International (OI) combines microfinance with training and peer mentoring through Trust Groups of entrepreneurs who help each other and learn at the same time.  The groups of 10 to 30 entrepreneurs become eligible for loans after a training period. Then they meet to continue to learn and help each other develop skills as well. OI allows you to pick a person to whom you will loan, support a project or donate more generally.

The oldest instances of microfinance started in 1976 through Grameen Bank which works together with the Grameen Foundation to provide microloans.  Started by Professor Muhammad Yunus with $27, Grameen has a monthly $27 donation program although people can give any amount as a onetime gift or more often.

The U.S. Department of State has even gotten in on the mentoring act with its Women Entrepreneurs Network through Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas. Through the Department of State, women-owned businesses can also get certified through WeConnect International to provide materials for major contracts. 

If you own a business, you can share your knowledge with people who need it through mentoring. But, even if you don’t have the business knowledge to mentor a young entrepreneur, you can be a fiscal mentor by providing money to the most in need.

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