The following is from an interview with Daw Ohhmar Htay, a 41-year old wife, mother of two, and bakery owner who lives in North Okkalapa Township in eastern Yangon, Myanmar. She’s a client of Accion partner DAWN Microfinance, which specializes in serving women entrepreneurs, traditionally through group lending. DAWN and Accion have worked together since 2015, and the partnership was formed to offer financial services to a largely underserved population in Myanmar. Since then, financial services in Myanmar have evolved and technology has spread rapidly.
We spoke to her just after she took out her first loan from DAWN, and as you’ll see, she’s already thinking about the next one. Here is Daw Ohhmar Htay’s story, in her own words.
“I’ve never borrowed money before. My husband and I just moved to this house and we had to spend money fixing the roof, so I didn’t have enough money to buy flour, butter, and eggs. My friends told me about DAWN, so I decided to join their borrowing group about one month ago. I used the money from my loan to buy supplies for my business.
I sell breads and cakes to the tea shops in the area. My business does better during the rainy season because people like to drink hot tea and coffee when it is cold and rainy, and they order cakes and snacks with their tea. Also, the children are back in school during the rainy season, so there are more of them going to buy snacks together after school. My favorite thing we make is pound cake.
“I save money with a group of 19 other women, some of whom are also in my borrowing group with DAWN. Each day I put in 10,000 MMK (~$7.50) and every 20 days it’s my turn for a payout of 200,000 MMK (~$150). When I get the payout, I spend it on new machines for my bakery. I bought a new gas oven to replace my charcoal stove and now I can bake much more bread each day.
“I have five workers that help make the dough and bake the breads. The workers come from Magway, where my mother lives. My mother talks to people in her neighborhood and asks them if they want to work in Yangon. The workers stay in the house with my family, and I give them food and some spending money each month.
“I need more space because my margins are shrinking. I sell one box of treats to the tea shops for 600 MMK ($0.44), and the shop sells it for 800 MMK to the customers. The shops won’t pay any more than 600 MMK, but the costs of sugar and oil have gone up a lot in the last year, so I make less for each box. I’d like a loan from DAWN to buy land so I can expand my business with a larger space.”
Interview conducted by Jason Loughnane for Accion