The real strength of LEAD is that we lead with education rather than money. Offering loans without teaching business skills sets up many business owners for failure, so LEAD requires clients to complete one of its training programs in order to be eligible for a loan.
Members have stated that LEAD’s business education is “life-changing” and “something all of Africa needs.” Some of our graduates find that they have learned enough from the trainings to make a loan unnecessary. The class that seems to have the greatest impact for our clients is the class on boundaries – teaching business owners to separate themselves and their families from their business. □
The Nehemiah Empowerment Initiative is a training, lending & savings-intensive program for small to medium-sized businesses. It is the longest-running program (since 2005), and consists of a
36-hour, twelve-week business training course including instruction on marketing, pricing, cost analysis, bookkeeping, boundaries, goal-setting and banking.
To qualify for the class, a business owner must have been in business for one year, employ 2-30 people, and demonstrate a desire and ability to grow. The initiative requires students to complete a business plan, and savings program, after which they are eligible for loans of US$300-2000. Exact loan size is based on a three-to-one match of the savings completed by each business.
The Providence Empowerment Initiative (PEI) training program was started in 2008, in response to the needs of micro-enterprise business owners in Liberia. The PEI training targets micro-businesses, offering a shorter, 2-day training, smaller loans and a shorter savings and repayment period.
To qualify for the class, a business owner must have been in business for six months, and demonstrate a desire and ability to grow. The initiative requires students to complete a simple business plan, and modified savings program, after which they are eligible for loans of US$100.
The DeVos Initiative is the final step for small business owners to allow them to upgrade to medium-sized businesses. This initiative focuses on providing additional capital to previous clients who demonstrate the skills and determination to expand their business. LEAD hopes this initiative will assist in developing the middle class,essential for sustainable poverty alleviation.
In response to requests from rural regions of Liberia, LEAD launched the Agricultural Empowerment Initiative in 2010, to provide training and capital to farmers. In spite of its fertile land, roughly 80% of Liberia’ s food supply is imported each year. This is largely due to the large number of farms which failed or were abandoned during the war. This program will help to lower food prices across Liberia, stem urban migration, and generate jobs in Liberia’s poorest rural region.
As a part of this initiative, LEAD began a research farm in early 2011. The farm will test crop varieties, various farming tools and techniques, and animal husbandry practices, investigating the best practices for rural farmers. In the future, LEAD will also provide agribusiness training on the farm for clients.