Cover photo: Cecilia Polanco Tueros, client of Tienda Pago

Cecilia Polanco Tueros is a picture of resilience.

Even before the pandemic, she was no stranger to overcoming adversity. After a bad robbery, her family lost everything and went bankrupt. Her husband had to seek out a new job where he could bring in more income, and Cecilia took over the corner store that had previously been run by her mother-in-law.

Running her store keeps her busy every day, but she’s always working to balance the needs of her business and her family. While her three sons are now in their teens and twenties, Cecilia still makes time to be in their lives as much as she can — stepping away from the store to make breakfast for everyone and reconvening the family for lunch each day. She takes particular care to be there for her oldest son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Before the pandemic, she arranged for him to get the therapy and support he needed over the years, and she is proud of the independent young man that he’s growing into. Being able to work close to home and tend to her family’s needs is important for Cecilia since she has to work such long hours, from before sunrise until late into the evening.

Cecilia and her family quickly felt the effects of the pandemic when it reached them in Lima, Peru. “COVID-19 was and still is very hard on us, as a family and as a business. Thank God neither me, nor my immediate family got infected. Sales are down, people are not coming as much, and they do not have money to spend,” she says. Though her store sells food and everyday essentials, many people in her community are struggling and buying less.

One thing that’s helping her manage while her sales have dropped is working with Tienda Pago. Accion partner Tienda Pago provides working capital for small merchants in Peru and Mexico so they can manage their inventory needs without being at the mercy of cash flows. This allows them to buy what they need and take advantage of busy times to sell more merchandise and grow.

“Tienda Pago is a solution,” says Cecilia, a smile breaking over her face. “It’s like a salvation, you might say!” She wasn’t so sure about trying it at first — “I hate taking a bank loan. I never do it,” she explains. But with Tienda Pago, the credit is so short-term she repays within a week and doesn’t lose a sense of control over her finances. Even though the loans are small, she’s still able to come out ahead.

Cecilia hasn’t been able to stock as many items in her store in the past year because of her decreased sales. The support she receives from Tienda Pago has helped her to stay afloat. “Tienda Pago helped a lot and keeps helping us. Tienda Pago did not charge me interest or late fees for the period we were in quarantine and not buying products.” Their team is staying in touch with Cecilia through phone calls and their digital app while they’re unable to visit in-person during the pandemic. Tienda Pago is focused on helping small shop owners like Cecilia through this crisis so they can stay in business long-term.

While Cecilia is still fighting to get through the challenge of COVID-19, she’s holding onto her dreams for the future. Access to working capital opens opportunities for small business owners to endure challenges and grow when sales rebound. Since she began using Tienda Pago’s services, Cecilia has found she can stay afloat during difficult times, and when things are good, she can order more merchandise for the shop and have money to spend on the things her sons need. Her oldest son has taken workshops to help him gain more skills and independence, her middle son has begun working as a dental technician, and her youngest is doing well in high school. “I want to grow, I want to expand,” she says, looking ahead to the future. Her dreams are growing bigger, too, as she envisions college degrees and professional careers for her sons, and hopes they’ll be able to support and take care of each other. Cecilia’s store is more than a job; it’s a pathway to a better future for her entire family.

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