Direct lending is not the only way to help. Many of our loans are made to artisans and craftsmen who produce high quality products. In addition to credit, one of the main obstacles they face is access to markets for their products. In general, their local markets are unable to absorb their expanding production (local needs are often more basic). While a number of institutions are working on these issues, their success has been limited for several reasons:
- The institutions often directly control the process. They identify the products, select the producers, control production and manage the marketing process. While their intentions are good, the process is often inefficient and the range of their market reach is narrow.
- While many of the micro-enterprises have the ability to be extraordinarily flexible in the quantity and specifications of the products they produce, they get little or no customer feedback. Without the demand feedback, they are unable to appropriately adjust their production.
These limitations on demand ultimately limit the scalability of the micro-enterprises.
A logical solution is to create a platform for micro-enterprises to access global markets. Spes Nova has established a web-based platform, creating a virtual market for buyers and sellers to interact. Many countries, including the United States and the European Union, already have favorable laws allowing for the import of textiles and similar handcrafts (in what are considered to be small amounts). Shipping methods for most countries are already well established.