Investing Spotlight: Vision Fund
VisionFund is just one of the initiatives Verve Super invests in. They are dedicated to providing tailored financial solutions that serve as a powerful tool for empowering women to reconstruct their lives following a crisis. In times of turmoil, women can often bear a disproportionate burden of emerging challenges.
What does VisionFund do?
They provide microfinance loans to low-income households, including with a focus on supporting women’s businesses. The loans are provided at reasonable interest rates to families and individuals that otherwise would struggle to access credit. Small loans of as little as $100 can sometimes be all that’s required to help a family break the cycle of poverty. The loans are paid back with high reliability, so it’s a win-win.
Hear from VisionFund’s CEO
Here are just a few inspiring stories from amazing women who have benefited from these microfinance loans.
Dreamt to Create More Jobs for Her Community
As a girl, Daw Thin Thin Hlaing’s family was very poor—she often missed meals, didn’t have enough clothes and missed out on school.
With limited opportunities at home, she went to Thailand to seek work. Daw Thin Thin Hlaing lived there for nine years, and both she and her husband found work at a motorcycle factory. When they got married, a family member suggested they move back to Myanmar and open a jewelry shop out of a relative’s home.
Daw Thin Thin Hlaing’s business grew slowly, organically, until she moved the storefront out of her relative’s house and opened a shop where she began selling longyis, traditional Burmese garments. Now, she has four stores and a t-shirt printing business.
She designs the longyis herself and gets them specially printed. To stock her shops with these custom designs, Daw Thin Thin Hlaing took out a loan from VisionFund.
Now, her goal is to establish her own weaving business, so that she can make the longyis in-house and employ local women. She knows first-hand how difficult it can be to find work in Myanmar and how many women go to Thailand, where they’re far from their families and can fall prey to exploitation.
Daw Thin Thin Hlaing feels a deep sense of responsibility toward her community, and her vision is to create jobs for up to 100 women. “If I can give opportunities to others,” she says, “then that is what I need to do.”
Mercy: Rising Out of Poverty
Mercy started working with VisionFund Ghana in 2000, when she was 41 and her first loan was for GHS 150.00 (US $33.33). Mercy said, “I added the loan from VisionFund Ghana to my small savings to buy flour and other ingredients for baking. After few months of savings, I was able to buy four big bags of baking flour and also increased the size of my oven.”
Subsequent loans were used to buy more items needed for the business and she used profits from the business to pay her children’s school fees, take care of their food and also pay hospital bills when they were sick.
Mercy is full of joy for how far she has come with the help of God and through VisionFund Ghana, she has been able to acquire a piece of land and build a decent house for her children.
Mercy added, “The key milestone for the past 15 years has been the improvement in my life as a result of VisionFund. I have been able to take care of my children, pay their school fees and also build a nice house where we live currently.”
Not So Run Of The Mill
Daw Saw Saw Win, like many women in Myanmar, left her family to move to Yangon, the capital city for work where she took on various jobs in tourism, hotels, and in government offices. She did this to support her three children, one is 21 and studying in the university, the second is 17 and finishing high school and the youngest is 15 and in grade 10. When her mother passed away, Daw had to return to Hpa-an to manage their family’s business. Together with her brother, they ran a rice milling and wholesale business. Taking on this responsibility was not easy, nor was maintaining and growing the newly inherited business.
Their rice mill plays a crucial role in her community’s economy. The mill supports her and her brother’s family and their six employees, all of whom have children of their own. The business buys rice from farmers in about 50 villages, threshes it in the machine, bags up the processed rice and then sells it. In some cases, they give farmers money in advance to help them with upfront costs/expenses of rice farming, and then they will collect the harvest when it is ready. They also provide fertiliser to the farmer if they need it and then deduct the cost from the price they pay for the rice at harvest time.
Daw Saw Saw Win and her brother have 15 regular customers. On average they process about 100 bags of rice per day, about 3,000 bags in a month. They export the bags to Yangon and Thailand for 10,000 kyat per bag, with each bag weighing 50kg bag once processed. The rice husk, which is a by-product produced in the milling process, is sold to farmers as animal feed.
In the six years since taking over the business Daw has steadily grown the mill production, employs more people and produces more rice. While the business was stable, it didn’t produce much profit. This made it very difficult for the business to expand and left Daw Saw Saw Win and the families and farmers depending on the business, vulnerable to market shocks, natural disasters and other setbacks.
In Myanmar, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment and seasonal rains affect the productivity and income of farmers and producers. For Daw, transportation was a costly item in her business, she often spent a large amount of money renting trucks to transport the rice, so she began to look for opportunities to address this. VisionFund Myanmar’s loan officer put forth the idea of buying a truck. Outlining her plans, she was given two loans, first one for 1,000,000 Kyat (US$650) and then an SGB loan for 10,000,000 Kyat ($6,500).
The truck helped Daw Saw Saw Win as she could pick rice to be milled from the famers and she could deliver to her buyers directly. She was also able to rent the truck out to others when she didn’t need it. She estimates the better service, the savings and extra income from the truck and loan has grown their profits 300%.
Daw sees another opportunity which will grow the rice mill business and provide livelihoods for others in her community. She is planning to purchase another threshing machine which would double the capacity of their mill. This would employ an additional 5-6 people and free up her brother to focus on upgrading the quality of the rice they produce. Importantly, with better and higher quality rice she has the potential to access export markets. She would be able to sell more rice to buyers in Thailand and possibly also begin to export rice to China. With the ongoing support of VisionFund, her family’s business has provided for her and her family, as well as those in their community.
Daw Saw Saw Win is very satisfied with VisionFund Myanmar’s services and feels lucky to have a chance to get a loan and a relationship with VFM. She highlighted how easy it was to get the financing, how easy it was to talk with the loan officer and discuss the different ideas that they had.