At 7 a.m. each morning, Claudia opens her store. For 28 years, she has imported and sold bed linens to wholesalers and individual customers from her storefront in Guatemala City. The hours are long and the work is difficult, and she is proud of the business she built. This business has allowed her to provide for her two children and send them to school – one is currently an aeronautical engineer and one is a medical student. She’s also been able to offer job opportunities to members of her community over the years. To build her business, Claudia became a customer of Fundación Génesis Empresarial, a financial services provider that helps small businesses in Guatemala improve their digital capabilities and financial management.

“I started with Génesis with a group loan, where one person was the leader, and the others only had to make our payment to be able to grow so that Génesis could trust each of us.” Some banks, she recalls, had too many requirements for a fledgling business like hers. “Génesis has been much more accessible,” she says.

Today, she makes use of a variety of their products to sustain and expand her business. “I have worked with Génesis since I started. I think we are both growing, and I am still a client of Génesis to this day.”

Like many small business owners, Claudia faced unprecedented challenges in recent years. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with Fundación Génesis Empresarial to adopt new digital tools, including social media and digital payment options that allowed her to reach customers who were not able to leave their homes. She credits Fundación Génesis Empresarial’s support, along with the dedication of a longtime employee, for helping her business weather the crisis.

“Today, I think we are even more solid than before,” she says. “Many businesses that did not have good support, good capital, or good staff went bankrupt. Several of the ones here closed. We are one of the few that have continued to distribute these kinds of products.”

Claudia in her textile shop in Guatemala City

Accion and Fundación Génesis Empresarial have a longstanding partnership and a shared commitment to helping Guatemala’s small businesses thrive. Claudia is one of many hard-working business owners in the country who are trying to get ahead but are at risk of being left behind as the global economy becomes increasingly digital. And she’s an example of how high-quality, affordable, and responsible financial services can help women entrepreneurs seize opportunities.

Accion is committed to helping micro and small enterprises like Claudia’s keep up with the technology trends that are reshaping the global economy. Since 2018, we have partnered with Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to support the digital transformation of financial service providers, like Fundación Génesis Empresarial, who serve these types of businesses. Through this work, we have learned a few key lessons: using digital products can build financial health, empower women, and unlock growth; frequent users of digital products see more benefits to their business; and while digital payments and other technologies are in high demand, a human touch is essential for maintaining trust in the new products. These findings are described in our report, The impact of digital transformation on underserved microbusinesses.

Accion and Fundación Génesis Empresarial are also taking part in the Partnership for Central America, an effort to address the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. By working with local partners like Fundación Génesis Empresarial, Accion aims to increase economic opportunity in a region that struggles with food insecurity, violence, climate change, and other threats to citizens’ livelihoods.

Hear Claudia tell her story in our video, Claudia moves her business online during the pandemic.

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