Francisco Romero Heda is the second-generation owner of Deposito San Francisco. His father started the business in Querétaro, Mexico over 40 years ago, and Francisco hopes to pass the business onto the next generation of his family 40 years from now. He sells construction materials to large distributors and construction firms, as well as to small businesses and individual contractors. Like many business owners, Francisco found that cash became tight during the pandemic and noticed that many of his customers have struggled with cashflow. He knew that he was losing sales because his customers needed credit to purchase materials for their projects, but his business lacked the liquidity and ability to provide it.
Cashflow constraints are particularly challenging in the construction industry. Contractors are expected to source and purchase materials to get their work done, but they often only get paid after completing their projects. They may receive a small deposit at the outset, but most must finance supplies and labor themselves, so they seek credit from the shops and distributors where they purchase materials. This need for liquidity stretches across the value chain and especially disadvantages small business owners who lack the cash to buy supplies upfront or extend credit themselves. Though small contractors and construction businesses may be well established, they tend to be small and aren’t an attractive customer segment for traditional banks.
“My greatest satisfaction is helping entrepreneurs get the tools they need to get one step closer to their dreams for their businesses.”
Caja Bienestar seeks to serve exactly this segment of small businesses, those unserved by traditional banks. As Manager of Institutional Sales, Elias Nahmad Buenfil notes, “We know them and trust them, and can provide a differentiated analysis to give them access to opportunities they don’t have today.” For over 25 years, Caja Bienestar has found creative, innovative ways to extend financial services to businesses and individuals in Querétaro. They’ve especially focused on serving new entrepreneurs, from small manufacturers to caterers cooking in home kitchens to large firms, that traditional banks overlook. “We are more people-oriented. We don’t just look at profit margins, but also the entrepreneur, their plans, and the overall growth of the sector,” says Elias. The work is rewarding for Elias and his team: “Today, I can tell you that my greatest satisfaction is helping entrepreneurs get the tools they need to get one step closer to their dreams for their businesses.”
Together with Accion’s Global Advisory Solutions and with support from MetLife Foundation, Elias and the Caja Bienestar team realized that distributors like Francisco are an untapped source of intelligence about small businesses in the construction sector that need credit. Over the years, Francisco and his team have accumulated many customers and have even provided some with materials on credit. In other words, Francisco’s customer records are functionally a credit and work history for many small construction businesses.
Caja Bienestar is now working hand-in-hand with Francisco and his team to offer credit to contractors and other customers so they can get the supplies they need to complete jobs that they may otherwise have to turn down. When customers come to buy supplies from Francisco, they can apply for credit from Caja Bienestar. Bienestar developed a tailored credit-scoring methodology for these small businesses by leveraging Francisco’s experience with them. The two teams work in close partnership to understand customers’ financing needs, assess their creditworthiness, and deliver products in a timely manner.
With financing, the entrepreneurs can purchase the supplies they need at affordable rates, and Francisco doesn’t have to worry about extending credit from his balance sheet. The arrangement frees Francisco to focus on sales and distribution, while Caja Bienestar takes on the burden of credit evaluation and collections and carries the risk of non-payment. “It is a great relief not to worry about collections and administration of credit now that Bienestar takes on that part of the work, analyzing the clients and carrying the risk. We can focus on selling and serving our clients,” says Francisco.
As Francisco notes, the goal of the partnership with Caja Bienestar is not just to deploy credit and sell materials; the objective is to help small business owners get the resources and information they need to grow their businesses. “The issue of credit is extremely complicated that can easily harm rather than help clients, so we handhold and advise them to ensure they see the benefits in their own business.” With the Bienestar partnership, clients can grow and develop their businesses via a relationship they already know and trust. He says, “We aim to go beyond getting our customers the materials they need. We also want to help with their capacity to get other important resources like financing, so that we can grow together.”
He notes that the collaboration creates a virtuous circle by creating benefits for his business, his customers, and their families and communities. Francisco believes this partnership can help his business achieve more and for more; “We are just scratching the surface with our Bienestar partnership. We have the capacity to sell, allocate, and reach even farther, to create a more inclusive economy and a world of opportunities for all.”