Andrés Hernández and his wife Carolina left their life in Venezuela in search of safety and economic stability. Like them, almost 7 million Venezuelans have had to abandon the country and are obligated to accept jobs for which they are overqualified, due to their lack of resources or lack of documentation. This was Andres’ reality when he arrived in Colombia. He drove taxis, worked in a nightclub and even joined a mariachi band. Four years later, the couple was able to start a business,“Tu Refuerzo Escolar”, a support center for students.
To run a business is not easy, but it is even harder for migrants because they lack both credit history and collateral which prevents them from accessing loans and financing. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), around 65% of the migrant population work in the informal sector, compared to 50% of the local population. For Carolina, “It’s been hard to arrive in a country, [start] from scratch,be a nobody. And your business card? I’m Carolina Pérez, Venezuelan. That was very hard.”
Aware of this reality, more than two years ago, Bancamía, BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s institution in Colombia, started to support Venezuelan migrants. Aside from loans, they also offer entrepreneurship skills training because most of them are starting a business for the first time. In Andres’ case, he was a teacher but didn’t have management or marketing skills.
To meet these needs, Bancamía and The Trust for the Americas (an affiliate of the Organization of American States), in partnership with USAID, Corporación Mundial de la Mujer Colombia and Corporación Mundial de la Mujer Medellín the pilot project “Impulso Digital” (Digital Impulse) was launched within the framework of Empropaz Program (Emprendimientos Productivos para la Paz), to offer training in office software and digital marketing to more than 140 microentrepreneurs. An initiative that aims to increase their skills in using new technology and boost their online sales and services through digitalization.
Andrés and Carolina receiving training in business strategy.
By the end of the pilot, just like Andrés, 100 additional entrepreneurs completed the digital marketing module and 103 finalized office software skills. 76% of the participants are women, 20% are Venezuelan migrants.
Today, Andrés can manage social media accounts and feels comfortable using programs like Excel for accounting purposes, both increasing his businesses’ visibility and improving its profitability. Like him, 91% of the beneficiaries have reported an increase in their sales thanks to the training courses.
During the pilot project’s closing ceremony, Miguel Achury, Empropaz’s director, guaranteed that “expanding the curricula of the modules to enhance the digital abilities of the beneficiaries has been a huge step forward towards generating entrepreneurial capacities and strengthening this initiative in communities affected by violence and poverty. Now, thanks to the accompaniment of the Trust for the Americas, through its partnership with the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, we witness scores of participants using social media, web pages and apps like WhatsApp as their main tools to sell, promote their products and broaden their activity.”
Andrés partaking in the “Impulso Digital” courses.
Andrés is grateful for the support of Bancamía and Empropaz and shares, “they have turned into very important allies for us. Thanks to them, we were able to start making our dreams come true and build the life that we want here in Colombia.”