Starting Women-owned Businesses

27 October 2010 at 14:04 4 comments

In 2008, IMON International, one of Kiva’s Field Partners in Tajikistan, conducted a community survey to identify potential opportunities to improve their product line.  They found that quite a few women were interested in starting businesses, but so far had not been able to secure funding.  With the help of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the National Association of Business Women in Tajikistan (NABWT), they launched the Women’s Start-up program in late 2009.

As part of the program, groups of 7-10 women participate in a 5-day training specifically tailored to rural women.  The training covers the steps to launch a business and each woman writes a business plan for their start-up venture.  Based on the business plan and a unique credit analysis which is more open to risk, IMON will fund a loan to the individual, with a reduced interest rate compared to other start-up loans.  If the loan is not initially approved, there is a 6 month period where the loan officer will provide suggestions for how to improve their application and secure a loan.

The program also includes a quantitative analysis of how the Women’s Start-up businesses compare to a control group of existing clients.  ILO and IMON are currently analyzing the data from the first phase of the implementation, and plan to make adjustments to the program based on the findings.

Last week I had a chance to visit two women who received a Start-up loan, Rano and Uguloy.  We made a short drive from IMON’s head office in Khujand, to the center of town where we met Rano and her family.  Rano told me she had seen an advertisement for IMON’s Women’s Start-up program on TV and decided to apply.  She participated in the 5-day training program, during which time she wrote a business plan to start a bakery out of her home.  Using the money from her microloan she built the oven pictured below, where her and her family work baking the national bread, lepioshka, which she sells in the main market, Panjshanbe.   She generally sells out of her inventory each day, such that she’s considering expanding to build an additional oven.  Consistent with the incredible Tajik hospitality that’s been so prevalent during my time here; she wouldn’t let me leave without sampling her product, straight out of the oven.  There’s a saying here that “Bread is life” and having tasted Rano’s lepioshka, I can certainly see why. 

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Our next stop was a 20 minute drive to the neighboring town of Chkalovsk, to visit Uguloy at her clothing shop.  With her loan she was able to rent a small storefront in the local market selling women and children’s clothing.  Most of the clothes are made to order, and demand has been strong enough that she has hired 6 part-time employees to help her fulfill orders.  She showed us the electric sewing machine purchased with the loan, which has helped her business run efficiently.  Uguloy cited the business training she received at the start of the program as being helpful now that she’s managing a growing amount of revenue and expenses.

Uguloy's sewing machine

These are two of the stories from hundreds of women in Tajikistan who have been able to start a business through IMON’s innovative program.  If you would like to support Kiva’s Field Partner who has implemented this program to encourage women’s businesses; you can make a loan to an entrepreneur here.
Donald Hart is a Kiva Fellow based out of Tajikistan’s capital city of Dushanbe.  Fresh baked Tajik bread is one of the many things he will miss as his time here comes to a close.

Entry filed under: International Micro-Loan Fund (IMON), KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class), Tajikistan. Tags: , , , , .

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  • 1. jacqueline Ochoa  |  29 March 2011 at 20:20

    Hello Donald,
    I’m a student at Tufts University currently enrolled in a class on microfinance and I had a couple of questions on IMON international( that I hope you can answer for me).
    1. How does IMON deal with record keeping and fraud?
    2. What distinguished you from other MFIs ( in Tajikistan or other MFI’s around Central Asia)?
    3. Does IMON offer microinsurance or other types of services?



  • 2. Louis  |  29 October 2010 at 03:39

    Wonderful. I am presently selling the SAFE STEP Walk in Tubs to seniors or people with disabilities. Go see my website and let me know, Looking to get bridge capital to keep me going. I have sold two tubs and a third is pending. I can run ads in the local pennysaver that goes into to every household in given zipcodes. I would love to get business in a 15 mile perimeter of where I live. Easier on this old body and easier on my old DOG that goes with me and easier on my old car. How do I apply for $20,000.00. Once my business is going and I ma selling 2-3 tubs a week and will pay the money back and be a small lender. Let me know. Lou

  • 3. Donald Hart  |  28 October 2010 at 05:49


    What a thrilling experience to see KIVA at work in collaboration with other partners to make something new that will open up many doors of opportunity and bring hope that entrepreneurial effort can generate income and jobs. May these and many other women find joy as they manage the resources that are now in their care. There is a saying in stewardship circles that “little is much.” Who knows the ripple effect that these businesses will have. Good job. Keep going.

    Dick Edward Hart who worked with many others in international infrastructure development would be proud to see the advances being made by this next generation.

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