By Grace Beck, student writer
In what was a major milestone for the Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF), the group took a trip to Guatemala over winter break for a hands-on experience to see how their microloans have made a difference in the community and families of global entrepreneurs.
The student-run organization at Michigan State University includes students from the Broad College of Business and James Madison College, professor Paulette Stenzel of the Broad College, and founding alumni who serve on SGDF’s board. The group creates and facilitates opportunities for interest-free microloans, which support entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world.
The SGDF’s recent trip to Guatemala was a first for the group, but years in the making.
“This trip gave us a glimpse into the daily life and rhythm of the business owners we have sponsored,” said Scott Lyman (BA Finance and Social Relations & Policy ’18), president of SGDF.
Having the opportunity to see the businesses they support gave SGDF students a new outlook on the work they were doing.
Highlights of the Guatemala Venture:
Metalworking with Carlos Diaz
Spartan Global facilitated a $1,100 loan to help Carlos purchase new equipment for his metalworking business. Carlos took the time to show the students how to craft knives and other pieces, which allowed the SGDF to see the tools and equipment Carlos purchased from the microloan. This connection allowed students learn the intricacies of owning a small business in Guatemala.
Roasting Coffee with Victor Catavi
SGDF extended a two-year, $1,300 loan to jumpstart an entrepreneur’s coffee roasting and processing business. Working alongside Victor, students learned the necessary steps to roast different types of coffee.
“It was an eye-opening and surreal experience to have the opportunity to spend a day working with an entrepreneur we played a direct role in supporting,” said Lyman. “The most inspirational part came when Victor surprised us by paying back his microloan in-person…six months ahead of schedule! As a result of our loan, Victor has been able to achieve unprecedented growth in his business and had the available funds to repay the loan in advance. Receiving face-to-face payment from a loan recipient is a first for Spartan Global. This intimate interaction with the full cycle of microfinance was one of the motivating factors behind the trip in the first place.”
In addition to working with Catavi and his coffee roaster, students visited multiple other coffee roasters in the area where their loans had made a direct impact. One of the most important to the East Lansing community was Chacaya Coffee Cooperative.
Chacaya Coffee Cooperative
This coffee cooperative is composed of 50 different coffee farmers in the area. Students spent several hours walking around their coffee fields and processing facilities, learning the organic methods the cooperative uses to grow their specialty. This visit was special because SGDF plans to sell their coffee here in East Lansing in the future. In doing so, Spartan Global would partner with the Chacaya Cooperative and their field partner, As Green As It Gets.
Along with coffee, textiles represent one of the largest industries in Guatemala. Students had the opportunity to visit the homes of weavers who are part of a local weaving cooperative, where they learned the role textiles play in everyday life as well as the intricate steps required in producing a product to sell.