Full of Life and Bread
Good morning from Westminster, MD!
In December we started to explore the story of Danilo and his brothers, and their bakery, Pan de Vida. Today we continue the journey.
Some time later, Danilo found out that the Nicaraguan government was offering a very favorable loan program for small bakeries like his. This program would lend the bakery the funds they needed to significantly improve and expand their baking equipment. While they had reached the point of making ends meet, an investment of this sort was necessary if the business was truly going to be successful. The problem was the program required bakery owners to have a reserve of about ten percent of the $15,000 they needed to borrow. The bakery had taken great steps forward, but it did not have anywhere near the $1,500 necessary to move forward. This is a common problem for small businesses started by under-resources people in developing countries like Nicaragua. The resources they need to move beyond poverty are just outside their grasp.
Danilo and his brothers do not have the typical background of successful business owners. In fact, quite the opposite. Raised in a small, remote village near Albellanas in the north-central region of Nicaragua, most people spent life just trying to survive. Similar to Roger, Danilo was given the opportunity to finish his secondary education at the Veracruz orphanage. People from remote villages that grow up in orphanages do not start successful businesses in Nicaragua. This is typically left to people from well-resourced, well-connected families. This “ceiling” is the perfect breeder of hopelessness.
For most people this is the end of the story. The business either struggles to make it, barely providing enough funds to live for the business owners, or fails, not because of poor management or strategy but because of a lack of resources for those without resources to begin with. Danilo’s story would be different.
Due to his time living and working at the Veracruz orphanage Danilo had many contacts in the United States. Two of these people happened to be Cal Covert and Tim Adams. Cal and Tim, both on the NicaWorks! Board of Directors, had followed Danilo’s journey and desired to see him succeed. Taking another risk, Danilo approached Tim and Cal about his problem. Wanting to have a better understanding of what Danilo needed, Tim and Cal asked me to meet with Danilo as I was living in Nicaragua at the time.
Arriving at Danilo’s bakery, a small house converted into a business, I could smell the distinct scent of fresh bread. Given that I was hungry, this probably increased the odds of NicaWorks! developing a partnership with Danilo (only half kidding!). After receiving a quick tour of the small operation, and a Pico, a sweet pastry-like bread, I sat down with Danilo.
Danilo explained that business was really good, but that they needed to expand in order to take the next step forward. This had led him and his brothers to apply for the government program, but they had been unable to come up with the $1,500 of reserves required to receive the funds. After exploring other personal options, Danilo decided to reach out to his NicaWorks! friends to find out if they would be willing to help. Danilo explained that he developed a small proposal that showed why taking this step would benefit the business long term. When it came down to it, Danilo was asking if NicaWorks! believed in him- if they believed there was truly hope for the future.
NicaWorks!’s answer was yes. Reviewing Danilo’s plans, Tim, Cal, and the NicaWorks! team decided to lend Danilo the $1,500 he needed to receive the funds from the government program, and to lend it at zero percent interest. In doing so, NicaWorks! offered tangible hope to Danilo, his brothers, and his family.
Today the “Bread of Life” bakery is full of life. After receiving the loan, the bakery was approved to receive the new bakery equipment. This allowed them to significantly increase their production as well as add to their product offering. Of course, they still have the Picos and they are as delicious as ever.
Hope in a tangible form took what could have been a dead-end and made it a road of endless possibilities. Danilo and his brothers have now paid off the $1,500 loan from NicaWorks! and are planning on further expansion, including the purchase of their own location. Danilo has come a long way since life in the village and hope has played an integral role in propelling him there.
– James Belt