Rosa Tipula Quispe’s shop in Lima, Peru, is a family business in more ways than one. It brings her family together as her daughter and son take turns pitching in, and it’s even become like a member of the family itself. Rosa smiles with pride as her daughter Emily explains: “It’s beautiful to have something of your own that you can see growing every day with your support. It’s like a little tiny baby, and you invest and invest, and then you watch that kid grow up. That’s what motivates us!”

Rosa opened the shop four years ago because it seemed like the kind of business that would work well for her as she grew older. She gets to work inside, and she has time to care for her family. Her daughter Emily, a school teacher, comes into the store every day to help her mother keep things organized. Rosa laughs, pointing to the high shelves around the store that are much easier for a younger woman to climb up and stock. On a normal day, Rosa and Emily arrive at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for the neighborhood customers who arrive early for their morning bread. Before sunrise, the two go over the plan for the day, including what orders they expect to arrive, and whether they have the money on hand to pay for the deliveries.

Rosa and Emily’s community and their business had to make a major shift when Lima went into lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic. Their shop has been crucial for their neighbors, who rely more on the shop around the corner for their essentials. “I was able to stay open during the quarantine since I sell food in my neighborhood,” said Emily. But their sales were still slower than usual, and the supply chain disruptions from the pandemic made it difficult to stock their typical inventory.

A digital solution to plan ahead

Tienda Pago, an Accion Venture Lab portfolio company, is a digital supply chain finance solution that helps mom-and-pop shops in Peru and Mexico finance their inventory so they can stock what they need when they need it and grow their revenue. Rosa started working with Tienda Pago a couple of years ago to help her purchase stock for her customers using their digital credit options instead of cash.

Her supplier told her about the platform, and she was interested in an option that would allow her to be less dependent on cash flows. When Rosa relied on the cash she had on hand, she could only get the merchandise she could afford at the time and would miss opportunities to stock up ahead of busier times and sell more. Rosa also wanted to move away from cash because of the security risk. Bills can be lost or stolen, and she appreciates that with Tienda Pago, she doesn’t have to deal exclusively in cash. When she needs to pay her suppliers, she gets an SMS code on her cell phone she can give to the delivery person, and the cash box stays safely behind the counter.

“When we first opened the shop, we were very traditional in the way we handled payments and merchandise,” says Emily. “With Tienda Pago, technology isn’t something that’s just ‘out there,’ but it’s something for us, too. First I, and then my mom, got accustomed to using it to manage things.” Now, she says, their finances are so organized that she’s able to spend more time working on other aspects of the shop.

Now that COVID-19 has turned things upside down, Tienda Pago’s services became even more valuable to Rosa and her family. “Tienda Pago financed me during the worst period of quarantine even though my sales were low, but now I am back, and I am asking for an increase in my credit line,” says Emily. Tienda Pago worked with their clients to adjust their loans and repayment terms when the pandemic shut down normal operations. They’ve also moved their customer service function to a call center and used WhatsApp, SMS messages, and their mobile app for communications with their customers.

Small shops like Rosa’s are essential to their communities and the main source of employment for so many families in Peru and Mexico. Tienda Pago remains committed to helping these small mom-and-pop shops weather this difficult time and continue to grow and thrive in the future.

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