When Martha Sócola Morales grew up, she experienced difficult times when her father, an agronomist, didn’t have a job. “During these periods, I only had enough money for the bus to and from school,” she recalls. As an entrepreneurial young girl in fourth grade, she used to buy sweets in bulk and sell them on to her classmates, so that she too could buy something to eat.
Her business skills continued at university, where she sold beauty products and typed up papers for her classmates to pay for her expenses. This is what inspired her future enterprise. “I started the business in my home offering a typing and printing service with my computer. Then I realised that people also needed extra things, like envelopes and pens and other stationery,” Martha recalls.
“My husband had a pending debt, so they denied me the loan and at that point all doors closed to me.”— Martha Sócola Morales
At that time, there was no other place that offered all these services under one roof, and Martha saw an opportunity. However, she needed a loan to expand her business and to add a photocopying service.
In Peru, it is standard practice for financial institutions to credit-check both the husband and the wife when either of them takes out a loan. This practice is meant to be inclusive of women, but if a husband has a pre-existing debt, this can have a negative impact. “My husband had a pending debt, so they denied me the loan and at that point all doors closed to me.”
But Martha did not give up hope and, after doing further research, she discovered a financial institution that offered group loans just for women. The requirements were far less, with no guarantee or collateral needed. Martha is now in a group with eighteen other women, with each of them receiving different levels of loans for their individual businesses. “We all repay our loans every 14 days at a low interest rate. We get a lower rate because we repay over a shorter time period, compared to the banks.”
“I think it’s important for banks to create more services for women. We are more responsible with our payments, can manage money well and repay promptly.”— Martha Sócola Morales
In addition, Martha received training in business management through CARE’s Women in Enterprise programme, supported by H&M Foundation, which she has applied to both her stationery business and other income-generating activities. “I think the economic role of women in the family is very important nowadays. If we are also providing an income and not just relying on the man, we can provide a better quality of life for our children,” she says.
Martha’s advice for the financial institutions is clear: “I think it’s important for banks to create more services for women. We are more responsible with our payments, can manage money well and repay promptly. We have a lot of ideas in our heads but often we cannot bring them to fruition because we lack the financial means. And apart from helping us, behind us they are helping a whole family.”
As for the future, Martha wants her business to grow and is always trying to adapt her business to meet her customers’ needs. “Little by little my business is progressing, and I hope it will continue to grow.”
About the program
Donor: H&M Foundation
Program: H&M Foundation’s Global Program for Equality with CARE
Project time: 2014 – 2017 (phase 1) and 2017 – 2020 (phase 2)
Total donation: 120 million Swedish Kronor