Growing and Selling Produce; Importer of Produce
Nukunuku, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

She may not be on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Powerful People” list, but Lupe made it to the top of SPBD Tonga’s list in 2012 to capture top honors as the “Businesswoman of the Year.”  Lupe is currently an owner of a registered business in Tonga that grows and sells vegetables in her local market.  She’s also an importer of produce from New Zealand, an advocate for women-owned businesses, and of course an SPBD client.

Eight years ago, Lupe started her micro business – she sold the vegetables her husband grew on their small plot of land at the local market.  The couple worked very hard and always seemed “to have just enough” money to support their growing family, but their earnings were not enough to build adequate savings that would allow them to grow their business, build assets or prepare for an unanticipated emergency.

In 2010, Lupe’s house sustained serious damage to the roof.  The cost of repairs exceeded her family’s funds, and Lupe and her husband had to decide whether to spend their income on roof repairs or on much-needed plowing and fertilizer for their vegetable business – the family’s sole source of income.  Fortunately for Lupe, a neighbor in her village told her about SPBD and invited her to a center meeting to learn more.

After successfully finishing her training, Lupe joined the Nukunuku center and accessed her first SPBD loan of Tongan Pa’anga (TOP) $1000 (or US$700).  She invested the loan in her vegetable garden and used her family’s funds to begin fixing the roof.  That was two years ago.  Lupe is now on her 4th SPBD loan – her last loan was for TOP$2500.  She also saves with SPBD and has accumulated a balance of more than TOP$700 in her savings account.

In addition to selling her family’s vegetables, Lupe imports garlic, apples, carrots and other fruits and vegetables from New Zealand.  She has a registered business and pays taxes.  SPBD aided Lupe in accessing a mentor from the Women in Sustainable Enterprise program in Tonga, and Lupe is now considering joining the local Chamber of Commerce.  She plans to export Tongan squash to Asia and New Zealand later this year.

Lupe is more than a business owner, she’s now a leader in her center and an advocate for women-owned and women-run businesses.  She wants other women in Tonga to know that they too can start their own businesses and be successful.  When asked how SPBD helped her to succeed, Lupe said, “SPBD gave me the money to grow my business, they got me to save, showed me how to be disciplined in doing my business, and they walked with me every step.” MicroDreams continues to support the growth of SPBD to ensure that more women in Tonga and throughout the South Pacific continue to take steps out of poverty.