So much has happened since my last post. Beyond working hard in the office and being moments away from publishing the 2013 Impact Report, highlights over the last few weeks include: spending a weekend in Placencia enjoying the sand, the sea, and the gelato; a great day in the field with MMC’s Kiva Coordinator collecting loan repayments; a fantastic, successful Leadership Retreat with all MMC staff; a day by the pool at Belcampo Lodge; and a visit to Ixcacao Mayan Chocolate.
Kiva day in the field was probably the best day in the field yet, as we were able to visit an incredible number of farmers (33!) and their families. MMC and Kiva, the world’s first and largest micro-lending website, joined forces in 2012, and since then, have raised 70 micro-loans for smallholder cacao farmers in the MMC network. We spent the day visiting farmers and/or their wives at their homes in the village of San Jose checking in and collecting small loan repayments. Common in the micro-finance world, MMC’s repayment rates are remarkably high. Farmers greatly appreciate the individual attention and the visits to their home. It shows that MMC is not simply collecting money, but invested in their success and the success of the loan. Whole families were excited to see us as we arrived, children would stand by intrigued and entertained by the repayment process. Yet, I found myself questioning our efficiency. When analyzing business operations, how do you compare efficiency/time/money with maintaining strong interpersonal relationships with critical stakeholders?
Last Wednesday was MMC’s annual staff leadership retreat. It was a fantastic day and I was honored to have had to opportunity to work with such an incredible group of hardworking, inspiring individuals, who together make a pretty unstoppable team! The day consisted of multiple sessions in which we took a deep dive into the business model, its mission, the activities designed to accomplish that mission, and the impacts of those efforts. Everyone worked together with respect and purpose throughout the day. As I am only a temporary member of the MMC team, it was moving to see that through both the best of times and the worst of times, this team is fully committed to each other, the success of their company and the prosperity of the communities and farmers with whom they work.
After quite a busy week, checking out Belcampo Lodge was the perfect Saturday afternoon treat. Belcampo is a luxury eco-lodge about 15 minutes outside of Punta Gorda with its own organic garden, farm, chocolate factory and rum factory. Tourists come for the opportunity to discover where Belcampo’s luxury products come from, how they are grown and prepared, and to do a little fly fishing too. We went for the pool, not to mention the chocolate mousse pudding. Delightful, it was.
Satisfied with our break from the work week, heading back to town, we stopped by Ixcacao Mayan Chocolate factory, family home, and cultural museum. Juan, the owner, and his wife are self made entrepreneurs who started with only an idea and a history with which to build their company and their legacy. Ixcacao makes wonderful organic chocolate in the traditional Maya way using cacao from their own family farm. Belize needs more entrepreneurs like Juan who care about preserving their cultural heritage while creating a marketable product in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
Only two and a half weeks left in Belize – I can’t believe it!