Shops are easy to start, but difficult to grow. Fortunately for 50-year-old Akanete Pongi, loans from SPBD helped her expand her shop, giving her financial security for the first time. She reflects on the long journey she has taken:
Akanete has 3 children, the youngest is in primary school and the oldest just recently became a father. She has done a tremendous job providing for them, although it was very difficult early on.
Akanete’s entrepreneurial endeavours started in 2000, when she launched a canteen at the local primary school. 8 years later she also started a small grocery store out of her home. Unfortunately, neither business performed well enough to make ends meet, so her family consumed the goods she was meant to sell. For years, Akanete relied heavily on family in America and New Zealand for financial support.
Then in 2010, Akanete discovered SPBD and joined the program. (SPBD launched in Tonga in 2009). Her loans enabled her to expand her product lines and upgrade her businesses. SPBD also provided her with business skills, training, and financial education. With new financing and improved skills and discipline, Akanete successfully increased her business profits over time. She also installed a new, corrugated iron roof for her shop. Her family was able to save for the first time, and she could afford to pay for her children’s education.
Acknowledging this business growth and her success, Akanete has a smile on her face saying, “life is so much easier now. All the things I have struggled with in the past can now be dealt with here in Tonga. I do not have to rely on my relatives overseas.” Akanete embraces the power of microfinance by being the SPBD Centre Chief in her village. She is now a leader, setting the example to others along with virtues of a good attitude and education.