Catalin Dumitrache was a vegetable gardener for 20 years, but he secretly harboured a passion for flowers – geraniums, petunias, hyacinths and many others. One day, he decided to turn this hobby into a real business, producing flowers for wholesale and in pots across 2,200 square metres of modern greenhouses equipped with automated heating and conveyor systems. However, flowers have always been a tricky business to finance: “Because of the yearly flower production cycle, it is difficult for companies in this sector to show a profit on paper, which makes it harder to get a loan with lower interest”, pointed out Catalin. However a loan from , backed by an EIF guarantee under the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), enabled the company to expand the greenhouses and purchase new equipment such as heat stations that can be controlled from a mobile application. At the time of writing, the company employed four people and is preparing to build a new greenhouse.
A single mother. An unemployed father. A youth without education. A family with no home. An entrepreneur with no credit history. The sick, the criminal, the very young, the very old. There are many ways to be socially excluded from society.
Gaining employment or starting a business is a path back to social inclusion.
Micro enterprises (less than 10 employees and an annual turnover of no more than EUR 2m) have an important role as employers. They make up nine out of ten non-financial European businesses. However they struggle to access financing.
PROVIDERS OF MICROFINANCE
Microfinance providers give credit and support to micro enterprises, entrepreneurs and vulnerable groups looking to start a business.
HOW CAN THE EIF HELP?
The EIF offers different programmes, which share risk and increase the lending capacity of microfinance providers to encourage lending to micro entrepreneurs.
Hussein came to Luxembourg in 2012 as a refugee from Iraq. After holding down various jobs he wanted to start a business of his own. However obtaining financing was difficult. The EIF supports microfinance institutions that lend money to vulnerable people and groups through the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI). Thanks to this support, Hussein was able to take a loan from microfinance institution to buy two vans and to start his business. MicroLux additionally helped him with coaching and mentoring. “I didn’t speak French, and I didn’t know enough about the paperwork or the procedures. Both Microlux and my social worker helped me get through all the paperwork, explaining what I had to do and putting me in touch with people”.
In 2014, entrepreneur Maria Goufa teamed up with two business associates to buy an old gym in Heraklion, Crete, with the dream of uniting fitness and nutrition in one place. “Europeans, and Cretans for that matter, are much more concerned about their life and health today compared to the situation a few years ago”, said Maria. However banks were reluctant to extend the credit for the interior face-lift. Eventually they secured a microfinance loan from , guaranteed by EIF, which allowed them to complete the transformation. With the new look giving the gym a boost, Maria was able to hire one more employee and increase shifts from 4 to 6 hours for some of her existing staff. “We’re doing well, but we want to do even better,” she adds, “we have clients here from 16 to 85 years old.”
In 2009, Asweenah Deane was hit by her business idea. A service that would provide personal, nursing and social care in the comfort of its client’s own homes. Asweenah had the motivation, she had the skills, but because of her credit history, no one would lend to her. Fortunately, , a Responsible Finance Provider, offered Asweenah a loan guaranteed by EIF through the EaSI programme. Today, Best at Home employs three people and continuously reaches out to people in need.
“I really would not have been able to do any of this without the loan.”
Emiliano and Alessandro shared a passion for sneakers – and a dream of opening an unconventional store selling lesser-known brands and showcasing the work of local artists and craftspeople. They identified a space in Friscati, a historical art town a few miles southeast of Milan and began their search for financing. Initially, they approached regional authorities, but ,“even though our project was very much appreciated, the process was slow, the waiting list was long…It would have easily taken about two years”, said Emiliano. Through , an Italian microfinance institution, the pair were able to secure an EU-guaranteed loan backed by the EIF. Now, the SMATE store is both a retailer and an inclusive space for creative expression.