The Kids Cooking Club in Cape Town, South Africa, is a cheerful, colorful space with lime-green walls, stacks of plastic mixing bowls, and children decked out in aprons and paper chef’s hats concentrating on sprinkling candy bits onto cookie dough. Mondisa, its founder, clearly loves working with kids. She smiles as she describes the club’s weekday cooking classes and weekend birthday parties, where budding young chefs master basic techniques, learn to follow recipes, and finally enjoy tasting the treats they make themselves.
The difficult part of running the business, Mondisa says, is accessing funding. First, she tried applying for bank loans. As a new entrepreneur trying to get her project off the ground, she didn’t have answers yet to the kinds of questions banks had about the business’s performance. “They ask ridiculous things,” she says. Shaking her head, she adds, “I have been with the same bank since I started my business, and they won’t even fund me.”
Then, Mondisa heard about Accion Venture Lab portfolio company Lulalend, an online platform for small business lending. “I do my applications online. It’s a very quick process. They ask for bank statements and then in a couple of hours, they call you, ask you some questions, and then you’ve got your funding,” she says.
Entrepreneurs, like Mondisa, have long been overlooked by traditional financial service providers. But Lulalend uses alternative data to make quick lending decisions for these small business customers. At Accion Venture Lab, we invest in fintech startups that can bring essential financial tools to the underserved — and what Lulalend provides for entrepreneurs is essential. As Lulalend’s co-founder and CEO Trevor Gosling explains, working capital is the lifeblood of a small business: “Giving them access to finance allows them to build their business… and as the company grows, it gives them the ability to employ more people [and] increase job creation.”
Mondisa has experienced this growth for her business after receiving several loans from Lulalend over the course of a year. She says these funds were key to helping her manage her cash flow as she purchased supplies for the cooking classes and found a dedicated space to rent.
“It’s really hard for us small businesses to grow. It makes it easier when you have places like Lulalend to help,” she says.
Now that her business is starting to grow, Mondisa is looking forward to when she will qualify for one of those larger bank loans. She’d like to hire more staff — to give herself more time both to spend with her own two sons and to dedicate to planning for the future, such as exploring the possibility of franchising her business in other cities in South Africa. With a smile restored to her face, she says, “There’s a lot of potential, growthwise, for the Kids Cooking Club. I’m very excited, and so is my family. Whenever things are tough I always think, ‘You can’t give up!’ Being a small business owner has its challenges, but it’s also very rewarding as well.”