On Thursday, September 26, Elon Microfinance Initiative held an online interview with Nico Meyer, the leader of Nuestras Huellas. Nuestras Huellas is a microfinance organization headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Founded in 2006, Nuestras Huellas works with groups of business owners known as “community banks”. These community banks are self-governing organizations that help people start businesses with strategic loans.
Of the 1,100 people Nuestras Huellas helps, Nico said about 95% are women. He also said that these women are in complete control of their business decisions, including which loans are made and which are not. “These women develop their destiny,” Nico added.
Dr. Mark Kurt, Assistant Professor of Economics and EMI faculty advisor, attended the meeting as well. Dr. Kurt led a group of entrepreneurship students to Argentina on a study abroad experience last January. The course, entitled Global Entrepreneurship Ventures, taught students about the models of microfinance throughout the world. Part of the class was a project to raise $500 for Nuestras Huellas, which the group presented to Nico when they met with him in Buenos Aires.
Dr. Kurt spoke very positively of the video conference with Nico and Nuestras Huellas. “I’m really excited that EMI is continuing to develop this relationship with Nuestras Huellas, and I am looking forward to strengthening the relationship. I’m happy that they are investing in us, and helping us to benefit their organization in the future.”
Another positive lesson EMI learned from Nico was the idea of targeting specific entrepreneurs with loans. Nico encouraged EMI to define a target entrepreneur or demographic to make strategic loans to, such as women or owners of clothing stands. He also advised us to ensure the framework for the payment and repayment of these loans.
Moving forward, EMI hopes to continue its relationship with Nico and Nuestras Huellas. We hope to define a plan to engage with Nico in Argentina, and to possibly sponsor a presentation to Elon University students. Based on the success of the events with Muhammad Yunus and Living on One in past years, we believe we can spread the word about microfinance here at Elon.
Dr. Kurt also added, “If we can help Nico and his organization in the future, I think that’s a positive step for our students, our campus, and for the micro-entrepreneurs he serves.”