Introducing the PNG Small Business Start Up Loan Program

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Update: This program no longer exists.

Each of us should passionately pursue ways to use our money for the glorification of the kingdom of God.

PA300265In 2010, my wife and I challenged each other to get involved in a giving project that involved time and not just money.  Since our family was in a position to give more last year, we decided to do something to try and help some local Christians here in Alotua, Papua New Guinea.

The project seemed obvious.  Since I was earning an income from a side business and learning a lot about businesses along the way, my wife and I decided that we were going to help as many people as possible to have the opportunity to start their own small business in 2010.

One of the biggest hindrances to starting a business here is having the capital necessary to get started.  The solution was to start the small business lending program.

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The Small Business Start Up Loan Program

In November we held a small business seminar.  About 30 people attended.  Immediately after the seminar, we started accepting applications from people who wanted to get funding to start their own small businesses.

The course was an entire day, and anyone who wanted to participate in the lending program was required to attend.

Here are the topics we covered:

  • The Biblical Foundation
  • God-Given Relationship Between Income and Work
  • Reasons Why Christians Work
  • Where do Christian blessings come from?
  • The Biggest Barrier to Small Business Success in PNG: Wantok System and Limited Means
  • Taking Responsibility and Ownership: Personal Development
  • Stages of a Business
  • Coming Up with Your Business Idea
  • Determine the ‘Market’ and Do Some Marketing
  • Setting the Right Price   PA300259
  • How to Develop a Business Plan
  • SAMPLE BUSINESS FORM
  • Basic Accounting
  • Needs Vs. Wants
  • Business Ethic – deciding what is right and wrong
  • What to do with business profit

Slowly, people started submitting their business plans.  To date, we have approved 20 loans and helped start the same number of businesses.

So is/was the project a success?

To be honest, it is too early to make that judgment call, but I will get back to you with the final(ish) results later in the year.  Still, here are my early reactions:

If you’ve ever lived in a third world country, you know the issue of poverty is so complex.  Trying to address poverty is about as fun as sticking your head in an oscillating fan.  Seriously.  Poverty issues are like an onion, once you find one way to address a situation, you’ll likely find another issue that needs to be resolved.

So far, many of the business seem to be going OK.  I had six people who had payments due on December 31st, 2010, and I got one payment back.  That’s alright because nothing happens according to deadlines here.  I’ve set this up as more of a benevolence thing, and I’m only planning on a 50% repayment rate (just don’t tell anyone in the program :) ).

Most disconcerting to me has been the amount of family/communal issues that have plagued families because they have started a small business.  One family is having constant fights about money and challenging each other’s business plans.  Two young men have had to deal constantly with negative reactions from fellow villagers who are jealous of their businesses and are openly critical.

I’ve also been concerned about the impact on our ministry here.  I’ve actually closed applications now because I don’t want word to get out that some guy from overseas is giving out small business start up loans to those who are Christians.  Giving people an incentive to becoming a Christian to get a loan just doesn’t sound like the right thing to do.

Time will tell how it will all play out.

Still, in the end, I’m so glad we tried something because in the process of trying, we have learned so much.  We’ve learned about ourselves, this country, fellow church members, and poverty.

So, do you have any plans to do (or are currently doing) something truly meaningful with your money?

Comments

  1. says

    Have you heard of Kiva, and other microfinance websites? I’ve started loaning a small amount there. What they do is lend the money to people of lower socioeconomic status in order to help their businesses and try to get out of poverty.

    The organization isn’t without its share of controversy. But as you say, with such a complex issue as poverty, there are going to be different opinions about the usefulness of any proposed solution.

    I admire your attempt at doing something, because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem and not do anything.

    • says

      Darren,
      I have heard of Kiva. In this case, I’m trying to implement something based on my person experience of nearly five years living in this culture. I figured God has blessed me with the experience so I should use those lessons for his glory.

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing your story. This is really using your financial knowledge for good in a really practical way. Hopefully some of the people enroll can make it.

    I’ve read a little about the Wantok System. Help me out here…can it be described as the following:

    the obligation to help people close to you (which is a good) but a person’s Wantoks completely abuse it by leeching off the successful ones until it breaks them down to the point where its not worth the hassle of trying to be successful?

    • says

      David,
      Thanks for the encouragement.

      Yes, that is a good basic description of the Wontok System. It specifically applies to relatives and does have the mindset that what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine.

      Like almost any cultural elements it has some very positive elements as well as some negative ones.

  3. says

    Craig! Great post here! Thanks for submitting to this week’s carnival of money stories! I actually am an active participant in microloans through microplace.com….This is great that you’ve taken it upon yourself to start your own program though. How large were each of the loans you were giving out? Did you find other investors to team up with, or are you the only one?

    • says

      Jacob,
      The loans each had a $350 limit. Most people are selling cakes, setting up a small trade store, or selling second hand clothes. We decided to start small and work our way up. We don’t have any investors this is just a person family project.

  4. says

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is so inspiring when you see or hear of the things people do for others because of the love of Christ. What you are doing for these people is great, even though they give you a 50% repayment rate and even people wont understand what you and your wife are doing, God understands, those people repay you but God sure will. It is not an easy thing at all to trust people who are not family with your money, and to help them to stand on their feet. You are a Gem.

    • says

      Grace,
      Thanks so much for your kind words.
      There have been several interesting developments along the way so I guess it’s probably time for an update on the progress of the program.

  5. ken konafo says

    Greg,

    It nice reading of your project aimed at helping alleviate poverty in our country. Our people are capable of doing something to help themselves but lack the financial resources and basic management skills to run and operate small business.

    Regards

    Ken Konafo

    • says

      Ken,
      I appreciate the kind words. I think a lot of positive mentoring is a significant part of the solution. We made a lot of mistake in our effort to help, but Lord willing some good was done.

  6. Monica says

    Hi Craig, this is so good and I know Blessings are already on your way.
    Is it just in Alotau only or in other centres of PNG as well?

    Please keep up the good work

    Monica

  7. Vince Apin says

    Its a wonderful thing to for the people of Papua New Guinea.God’ll surely bless you and your family. I am trying to start up a small business in PNG but I am afraight to spend my money because I might end up losing in bad business. Please give me some advice on how to manage K1000.
    Vince

  8. Jean says

    Dear Craig,

    I am interested in starting my own lending business in Port Moresby thus would need expert advise on how to go about it.

    I kindly await your response,

    Regards,

    Jean

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