Microfinance Club teaches students and serves international communities

Juniors Carmelia Muljadi, Neil Gupta and Monique Miranda (left to right) stand in front of the A building. All three are officers of the newly-formed Microfinance Club, which aims to help entrepreneurs in third-world countries establish businesses. Photo by Varsha Venkat.

Juniors Carmelia Muljadi, Neil Gupta and Monique Miranda (left to right) stand in front of the A building. All three are officers of the newly-formed Microfinance Club, which aims to help entrepreneurs in third-world countries establish businesses. Photo by Varsha Venkat.

Varsha Venkat

New special interest club combines business and service skills to help entrepreneurs from impoverished countries.

Microfinance Club Officers

Juniors Carmelia Muljadi, Neil Gupta and Monique Miranda (left to right) stand in front of the A building. All three are officers of the newly-formed Microfinance Club, which aims to help entrepreneurs in third-world countries establish businesses. Photo by Varsha Venkat.

Business is a popular field of interest for students at MVHS. Clubs like FBLA and DECA, in addition to the many business classes available, expose students to a variety of business fields including marketing and hospitality. However, few students are aware of microfinance, a profession which combines business and service skills to provide loans to struggling entrepreneurs in impoverished countries.

After learning about the field from his sister Class of 2009 alumna Vrinda Gupta earlier this summer, junior Neil Gupta decided to research microfinance because it seemed to combine many of his interests.

“Personally, all throughout high school, what I was really passionate about was business and kind of leadership and helping people,” Gupta said. “I really wanted to find a way to combine both of my interests, and I thought [microfinance] was a really interesting concept.”

He contacted junior Monique Miranda near the end of summer because he wanted to find someone who could focus on the service aspect of microfinance if a club was to be established. Gupta knew that Miranda had done some volunteer work in India and so decided that she would be a suitable co-president for the club, and together the two submitted a club application.

A couple of months into the school year, the co-presidents decided to add a third officer to their team and invited junior Carmelia Muljadi to join them as the club’s Public Relations officer. Muljadi agreed to join the club and found it to be innovative in that it introduces a new aspect of business that many students are not aware of.

“In business, most people often think of profit [and] how to satisfy the customer,” Muljadi said. “One of the main issues is [that] we never think of people who need the money to start their own [businesses]. So I think the club is going to be able to shed some light on the issue.”

microfinanceclubThe club plans to grant microloans to entrepreneurs through Kiva, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco. The officers will send money to the organization, which will distribute the loans among various microfinance institutions in third world countries; the employees who work for these MFIs will directly interact with the entrepreneurs. Once an entrepreneur has established a successful business and earned enough money to repay his or her loans, the MFIs will send money back to Kiva, which will return the money to the donors.

Gupta, Miranda and Muljadi plan to hold investment meetings in order to select the entrepreneurs that they would like to sponsor. At these meetings, members will participate in discussion forums in which they analyze recent news about economic poverty in developing countries. Through these forums, the officers believe that the club will be able to determine the most effective allocation of its funds.

To earn the money needed to grant such loans to struggling entrepreneurs, the officers plan to host fundraisers. During such events, they plan to facilitate connections between the club members and the entrepreneurs that they have chosen to sponsor.

“One of our big fundraiser events is a cultural night, which is basically a spotlight event on the region the entrepreneur is from,” Miranda said. “You kind of get a sense of their daily life.”

Although the cultural night will showcase the efforts of a single entrepreneur, the officers will use funds from the event to help raise money for the two or three of the entrepreneurs that they will be supporting at the same time. To determine the size of the loan to each entrepreneur, the club will assess each entrepreneur’s economic situation and involve members in the decision-making process.

The club activities do not stop at fundraisers, however; the officers hope to contact guest speakers and teach members about microfinance through presentations. They also plan to give members the opportunity to attend the summits hosted by Kiva in San Francisco.

“What I really like about Kiva is that it’s a humanitarian approach, and they believe in the virtue of the entrepreneurs and that if you give someone the chance to succeed, they will,” Gupta said. “That’s why for our promo, one of our phrases was ‘Everyone deserves hope.’ That’s really what microfinance is about.”

Microfinance Club will hold its next meeting at lunch on Dec. 4 in C205.