Blanca Liliam Cruz Zeas lives with her husband and two children in El Mojón, Jinotega, Nicaragua. Blanca is exceptionally hard-working and has always recognized the importance of earning her own money. A few years ago, Blanca opened a small business making and selling different types of fast foods like potato and plantain chips, enchiladas, nacatamales, and stuffed potatoes. Blanca’s small business is famous in El Mojón; truck drivers and other workers know to stop there to eat when passing through, and community members also like her food.
Blanca has taken out several short-term loans from different financiers in years past to begin and sustain her business, but the high-interest rates, up to 50%, never allowed her to grow her small business. Additionally, the financiers required Blanca to form solidarity groups with other loanees; in these cases, the group is responsible for other members’ debts, and Blanca was forced two times to pay back other group members’ loans
That all changed about a year ago when Blanca took out her first loan from the El Mojón Community Fund. With $158USD, Blanca was able to construct an official kitchen area in her home, complete with a ceramic counter, and install potable water tubing directly in the kitchen. It is now easier for Blanca to prepare the foods to sell with improved sanitation. As a result of this expansion, it is easier for Blanca’s customers to find her. Before, she would go on foot every afternoon to sell her food, and now, Blanca sells homemade food right from her home as well.
Blanca received a second loan of $209USD in May of 2019, which she used to buy an electric stove, a microwave, and more ingredients for her business.
In addition to the homemade food that she sells in her home, Blanca sells roughly 60 bags of plantain chips, potato chips, and enchiladas a day in the surrounding communities. This secondary part of her business generates about $80USD monthly, which Blanca uses to cover the cost of uniforms, school supplies, and snacks for her two children (6th grade and 11th grade). Although public school is free in Nicaragua, these mandatory ancillary costs are prohibitive for many families. Blancas says, “The community fund loans have helped me so much. The low-interest rate and the amount of time given to pay have allowed me to grow my small business…and [with my earnings], I’ve been able to pay school costs for my children. I am motivated every day to work to keep my children in school; the education of my children is so important to me.”