Adrienne Chaille, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Business Consultant
Barranco, Lima, Peru. On a cool, breezy summer night a group of thirty women gather in the courtyard of an old café – beneath hanging lights strewn across the branches of overgrown jacarandas – the patio is full of chatter and giggles, as each entrepreneur enters to meet her compañeras. True to the Peruvian way each rotates through the crowd, planting kisses on cheeks. As the waitress scurries around with various coffees in hand the women settle into a familiar rhythm of conversation and so begin their monthly pandero.
A pandero is a centuries-old, Latin American tradition whereby people associated through business or friendship choose to gather on a monthly basis each contributing a small amount of capital in order to participate. The money gathered at each meeting is placed in a larger pool that is “won” by a randomly selected member of the group each time on the spot providing a buy-in and a benefit to membership.
The women of this particular pandero in Barranco are the graduates of Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women Program in Peru in collaboration with Thunderbird School of Global Management. 10,000 Women is a global initiative of Goldman Sach’s to provide free business training in 22 countries to women who would not have access to otherwise. Within each individual country the program works in partnership with local agencies, Universities and companies seeking to build out employee engagement projects. The application process is rigorous, each local program office charged with the selection of entrepreneurs that meet specific criteria and standards surrounding their business. Their promocion, or class,was the 6th that took place so far in the country – 10,000 Mujeres Peru is now beginning its 15th promocion, in the city of Trujillo in the North. Each class is composed of women of various industries – from textiles such as garments made from alpaca or wooden bowls, to food products that range from brazil nuts to coffee to pisco. Some of the women have many years under their belt in their chosen field, while others are in their first or second years. Following the six-month course the graduates are monitored for two years, supported with various wrap-around services, such as business mentoring programs, fairs and additional trainings, and closely tracking the growth of the business.
Following their graduation, the women of Promocion 6 decided to continue to gather and support one another both socially as well as financially. They use their monthly gatherings as a time to update one another on their individual progress, challenges they face in the market and to talk the night away. So how does it work? Each woman brings 50 soles, which is about 25 dollars, to the event to contribute to the shared fund and placed in the hands of the treasurer. Those who cannot attend are still required to pay the money in order to retain their membership. The benefactors then may choose how they see fit, whether it be to put towards a new machine for their production or to hire a new employee. Due to the diversity of this group of participants (some businesses with twenty plus years in operation while still others having survived their first two), there are challenges in payment and attendance. Occasionally a participant is in need of every crucial sol! Consuelo Gonzales, one of the owners of Pisco Tres Generaciones, is responsible for the coordination of the funds and actively promotes the group.
Karla Garbaldoni, whose company NOA Gourmet, is one of the more developed businesses yet still young, believes that the pandero is a way for them to “I think it was a good idea to propose maintain contact, besides keeping up relationships as friends, we also share advice and tips as business owners – from beginning to end – because as entrepreneurs we all have common needs in various areas and with many areas some are more advanced and vice versa.”
Rosa Inez Nunez, owner of Pecados Integrales, a whole wheat snack company shares, “For me the pandero is a small help for my costs, being a small business, we always are looking for more capital and the money available doesn’t come with interest as it would be if we were working with the bank.” The small amount of capital that they have the chance of winning makes a significant difference in their business. The last winner of the funds used it to buy a small packaging device that she had been saving for which creates efficiency in her production.
Not all the promociones maintain this sense of community and 10,000 Mujeres Peru considers it to be a testament to the power of the program and the capacity for community building. Mariel Rotsthien, the 10,000 Mujeres coordinator in Peru shares “to see that the program has created a lasting sense of community means that we have succeeded in something profound.” Nevertheless, the women of Pandero 6 are considering inviting other cohorts to participate in their monthly meetings in order to enlarge their local network and increase the capital available to the group. Through their connections, the group has expanded local and international contacts in the market, constantly providing referrals and sharing clients between them. Using their affiliation with the 10,000 Mujeres Peru program the entrepreneurs are able to enter into various stores and use contacts by referencing the programs name.
The program has an established wrap-around program that provides networking opportunities, workshops and access to fairs as well as other resources in the community. The Pandero however is a testament to the additional resources generated through programs such as 10,000 Women.