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Picture of Jorimon Kahn

Jorimon Kahn

  • Home: Tangail, Bangladesh
  • Business: Paddy (Rice) Husking
  • As of 2005: 52, married, household of four

Jorimon recalls having a harsh childhood where she "never had a moment of happiness in her whole life." At the age of ten, Jorimon was married to twenty-two year old Rustom Khan. Her new life seemed to be a continuation of the last: insufficient food, poor clothing, little access to health care, and unfulfilled dreams.

In 1980 Jorimon received a microloan from the Grameen Bank for 600 taka (about US$10). With this she invested in a paddy-husking business. She would purchase rice paddy and husk it manually, thus producing rice to sell in the market. Within just two years, Jorimon reported a monthly family income of 718 taka—over twice the amount the family received before she started her paddy-husking business.

Through the use of successive microloans and the use of her savings, Jorimon has started a number of other microbusinesses such as selling milk, making palm-leaf mats, opening a tea parlor, and selling firewood. Today, only the original paddy husking and firewood businesses remain. Her sons are both involved in these businesses.

Picture of Teresita Pepito

Teresita Pepito

  • Home: San Vicente, Lilo-an, Cebu, Philippines
  • Business: Making Handbags from Juice Containers
  • As of 2005: 51, married, household of five

Teresita had to forego her high school education to help her half-blind mother with her sandal-making business. Although stripped of this educational opportunity, Teresita learned entrepreneurial skills that would later serve her well. After marrying in 1972 and giving birth to eight children over the next 14 years, Teresita longed for her children to gain the education that she had to sacrifice many years earlier.

In an effort to provide this opportunity for her children, in 2000 she began a business of making handbags out of juice containers. In 2003 she received her first loan from the Visayas Enterprise Foundation in the amount of $60, which allowed her business to thrive. She soon found the need to hire employees to assist with the production and she learned to respond to the changing market. For Teresita, a loan of only $60 meant a brighter future; it gave her the means to improve the lives of all her children.

Picture of Mbaye Tague

Mbaye Tague

  • Home: New York City, USA
  • Business: Clothing Retail
  • As of 2005: 50, married, household of seven

Growing up in Senegal, Mbaye worked with his father in the family grocery store. Life wasn't bad, says Mbaye, but he knew he could "become a better person" in the United States. In 1985 Mbaye moved to New York City and started working long hours for minimum wage at a gas station. Knowing he and his family couldn't live on such a meager income, he secured a vendor's license and set up a shop selling clothes from a small table on a street corner off of Fordham Road in the Bronx.

After eight years selling clothing on the streets in the Bronx, Mbaye decided to expand his business to increase his family's income and to fulfill the dream he had of owning a storefront. Mbaye took out a loan of $3,500 from ACCION New York and opened his first store in the Bronx in 2001. Over time Mbaye has run three stores, and he has learned a lot as an entrepreneur since arriving from Africa. Most importantly, Mbaye is realizing his goals.

One of these goals is to assure a legacy for his children and to obtain sufficient resources to educate them. Part of this goal was recently realized when his eldest son was awarded a full university scholarship. Mbaye's children see their father as an example of how hard work leads to success, and they have translated that into hard work in the classroom. Mbaye's greatest hope is that each one of his five sons will complete a college education, taking advantage of an opportunity that Mbaye himself never had.

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Small Fortunes premiered October 27, 2005
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