Flourish Financial was born during a trip to Uganda in 2011. Margaret Laloyo, a Ugandan super-entrepreneur who survived the ravages of the Lord’s Resistance Army, provided the conversation and insight that would lead to a better way to respond to poverty. The most significant breakthrough during this trip was the realization that charity and Western business know-how was not the best response.
Entrepreneurs in Uganda and all over the world are not short on ideas, passion, and relationships. They are short on accessible and reasonably priced capital to grow their ideas. In 2011, banks in Kampala, Uganda were advertising interest rates of 27% for business loans. For small and growing businesses, interest rates this high can eliminate much needed margin.
We then asked ourselves the question, What if we raised loan capital in North America and lent it to these entrepreneurs at more competitive interest rates? Would this market-based response help create more jobs that in turn would lift more people out of poverty permanently?
We decided to test this idea in 2012. Flourish Financial began when five Canadian families decided to each pool $1000 together and to lend it on to Margaret Laloyo. The $5000 loan was used to support an agricultural project connected to 6000 farmers in Northern Uganda.
Today, Flourish Financial has over 50 members who have contributed at least $1000 to an annual lending pool to support entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-supporting organizations like VisionFund, MEDA, The Perfect Group, and Partners Worldwide.