To be kind, to be close to the clients and in constant contact

SuyapaSuyapa Guerra Santamaria is a 50 year old woman who lives in the town of Villa Soleada in El Progreso, Yoro. Suyapa founded and owns her own “pulperia,” a convenient store operating within her home, which has proven successful and provided her with financial stability over the last five years. Suyapa is an original La Ceiba client. La Ceiba is a student-run client-centered microfinance institution at the University of Mary Washington. Suyapa received one of the first loans from La Ceiba (2008),  has received over eight loans and has the largest loan in La Ceiba’s history. Suyapa’s pulperia moves approximately 75,000 lempiras per month ($3,750).

The following interview took place on April 13th, 2012.

1)     What do you do for a living?

I am a business owner. I own and run this business, the pulperia. I am also the founder. 

2)     Tell us about how you got into your line of work.

I started buying some smaller products so I could sell them. Later La Ceiba offered loans. Eight months elapsed between the time I started [in Villa] and when loans were offered. Before Villa I had small pulperias in San Manuel Cortez, I started there in 1990, in Siete de Abril, I started there in 2005, and then finally in Villa in 2008. The products I sold at first were chips, soda, rice, beans and corn.

3)     What lessons has your work life taught you?

I learned how to serve people well. To adjust well to my clients demands. I learned to save money. I learned how to be responsible. I also learned how to handle credit. Lots of people ask me for credit. I learned not to give credit out in the form of money Instead I will let people take food or products without paying. If someone places an order but does not show up I might not work with them again. The first interaction is the test, after that I will make a decision. Sometimes people will get upset with me but I have to protect myself and my business.

4)     Do you have any favorite stories from your work life?

I remember the fan that La Ceiba gave me because I finished my porch.

5)     What role did microfinance have in your work life?

La Ceiba helped with the business. With the loans I received I bought the freezer, I bought the “trastero” [shelves for products]. I also enjoy the interactions I have with Ana and La Ceiba.

6)     If you operated your own microfinance institution how would you run it?

I would be more attentive with clients. I would be nicer to people and spend more time with them.

7)      Are there any words of wisdom you would like to pass along to other microfinance clients?

Take advantage of the opportunity to have micro-loans. Make an effort to be responsible and pay back on time.

8)     What qualities are most important to you in a loan officer?

To be kind, to be close to the clients and in constant contact. Ana has been very respectful and loving.

9)     Are you satisfied with the amount of interest you pay on your loan?

Yes, its not a lot that I have to pay interest. La Ceiba does not rush me to pay on time. This is important because sometimes I cant pay on time.

10)   What about your loan officer makes you smile?

Yes, since we first met we have gotten along. Ana makes me laugh.

I am very happy with La Ceiba and with Ana. I consider my business a success. I didn’t expect to have my business where my house is. I just rearranged my store to make room for a large dining room. I am proud of my business or rather I am happy about it.

Interview conducted by Santiago Suiero (recent graduate of the University of Mary Washington who is currently La Ceiba’s Program Director in Honduras)

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