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How To Build A Business Using Only Pennies

Tessa Stuart


Elina and her dough (source: The Microloan Foundation)  

Elina's Backroom Bakery

Twice a week the small hut at the back of Elina Soko’s one bedroom mud brick house is transformed into a bakery, using only a pile of hot coals on the floor.

Having mixed the dough, she makes batches of 80 scones at a time, first cooking them in a large pan balanced on two bricks over an open fire. When this is done she puts a metal tray over the pot and heaps the hot charcoal on top, thereby creating an impromptu oven which will cook the dough right through.

This cottage industry has rescued Elina, a youthful 51, and her family of six from a life of poverty as subsistence farmers in a small village settlement near Nkhamenya in Malawi. She has now had three loans – 10,000 kwacha (about £40), 15,000 kwacha (about £60) and 17,000 kwacha (about £70). Once her business model was proven and she graduated to larger loans, she was able to buy the flour in larger quantities and benefit from bulk discounts. She now buys  bags of 10kg for 1,300 kwacha (about £5) which will make her a clear profit of around 3,000 kwacha (£12) on the finished scones.

So today I am taking all my pennies  to the Microloan Foundation in Chiswick. They are trying to collect 4 million pennies and break a world record.

The Microloan Foundation make loans to African women to start businesses. The women repay the loan in 95% of cases and the money gets lent out again to more women. Simple. Brilliant.

I've met the people at The Microloan Foundation in person and assured myself that money given is well used. For every food and drink company research project I do in the UK, I like to help another woman's growing business in Africa.

If you live in West London not too far from Chiswick and have a jar of brown money cluttering up your home, take it in to Microloan's offices in Barley Mow workspace (near Sam's Brasserie). Help them reach the 4 million pennies mark.

Because £40, as you can see,  is all it takes for a woman to start a business.

Read a bit more here.

Or, if you want to give online, give to Microloan Foundation on 6th December, when the value of your donation will be doubled at no cost to you. That's when I'll be giving them more money.

Thank you.