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Miriam Vasquez – First Loan Recipient

Miriam and Mimi

Miriam and Mimi

GoBe’s  first loan recipient is Miriam Vasquez, who is starting a small, handmade chocolate company in Peguche, Ecuador.  Miriam’s enterprise was selected for this support because of her friendship and budding business partnership with Mimi Wheeler, the founder/proprietor of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolates.

The two met nearly five years ago when Miriam was traveling in the United States to sell handicrafts, heartbreaking trips that would take her away from her family and young son for weeks at a time. The friendship deepened when Mimi traveled to Ecuador to visit the farm cooperatives that supply her highest quality chocolates. Miriam and her brother visited and stayed with the Wheelers on several occasions in the three following years, when Miriam would travel to the Midwest to sell crafts she and others in her village made. Her many weeks enabled her to send her son to school and support her extended family back home. But Mimi suggested there may be another way. 

When Mimi realized the quality of chocolates available at local markets, she encouraged Miriam to launch her own chocolate company and over two summer visits to Empire coached Miriam in chocolate-making techniques. 

On Thursday, Feb. 4, we’ll be giving a short presentation on how you can help Miriam make the final purchases needed to get her store opened to the public. A morning session will be held at the Grand Traverse Pie Company (525 West Front Street) from 8-8:45 a.m., and an evening session at Scott’s Harbor Grill (12719 SW Bay Shore Drive) from 5:30-6:15 p.m. There, Mimi will talk more about her relationship with Miriam, and we’ll explain the intention behind the project and more on how it will work. 

Currently, we are currently seeking $3,000 to fund the final development of Miriam’s chocolate enterprise in the town of Peguche, located beside a scenic waterfall and a short trip from Otavalo, a popular tourist destination that hosts South America’s largest handicrafts market. We hope to secure 30, $100 loan donations, but we will happily accept more or less.  

Under the terms of the project, the $3,000 will be loaned to Miriam with a simple interest of 5 percent, with no collateral or risk to her. She will begin payments six months prior to opening, meaning we anticipate the first payment by January 2011. Miriam will have three years to pay off the loan, amounting to 36 payments of $87.50 each. Miriam is confident she can repay the loan with these terms and is hoping to pay it off much sooner.

Due to SEC regulations, your investment must be recorded as a donation; however we cannot offer a tax-deduction. If you choose to pool your investment, the money will remain in a microloan account for future loans to support Miriam and other entrepreneurs. If you choose to be repaid once the loan is paid off, we’ll gladly do this.

This, again, is a pilot project for a new microlending/tourism enterprise known as GoBe, currently in the conceptual phase of development and being spearheaded by Juliette Schultz and Jody Treter. GoBe will offer trips to visit Miriam and her chocolate business in the near future, and initial investors will get priority in future GoBe visits to this chocolatier and others in whom the project opts to invest.

From Feb. 23 to March 6, Mimi Wheeler, Kim Schneider, Juliette Schultz, Sharon Hendricks and Jody Treter will travel to Ecuador to help Miriam establish her new business, finalize her business plan and develop markets and promotional strategies. We will report regularly from Peguche while there and then at least monthly via a blog where you’ll be able to track Miriam’s progress.

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday and hope you will consider partnering with us in some way in this new person-to-person lending model.


4 Responses

  1. I am so impressed with your mission. I want to learn more!

    • Hello Sue – Thanks so much. Keep checking in with the blog for updates from Ecuador. When we return to TC we’ll have a presentation (or six) to share photos, stories and lessons learned. I hope you join us! Jody

  2. I wish you safe travels. Take lots of pictures Jody so I can vicariously travel with you. Peace

    • Hi Barb – Will do! Lots of photos coming up. Thanks for all your kind words. We’ll carry your good spirit along with us in Ecuador.

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