Katherine Rosenberg is the Director of Education and Evaluation at Grameen America in New York City. Whole Planet Foundation funds microcredit in the communities where Whole Foods Market sources products. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Grameen Bank, recognized that while New York City was the capital of banking, it also held one of the most significant disparities between rich and poor. In 2008, he opened the doors of Grameen America, a replication of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Whole Planet Foundation was one of the early supporters of Grameen America's lending operations in New York City, providing a $150,000 grant over three years to support low-income entrepreneurs in Queens, New York.
We quickly discovered that low-income individuals in the greater NYC area needed and wanted business loans but did not have access to affordable credit or a bank account. These people are creative and hard working; they just needed access to resources in order to make their business a success. Once Grameen America’s Queens branch was established it was only a matter of time before microloans could help women like Nicole achieve their dreams!Nicole used her first loan to buy portable equipment to make Southern-inspired cuisine at festivals and street fairs around New York City. Slowly, she expanded through access to subsequent loans. She now has a catering business with several employees and even enlists the help of her family for large events. “Every little bit counts” says Nicole.Like Nicole, Mariana has also seen her business grow through access to microcredit from Grameen America. She sells pineapples, mangoes and melons with a variety of toppings from her cart in Upper Manhattan and used her loan to increase her inventory. Business has increased significantly for Mariana, who hopes to open up a storefront with subsequent loans from Grameen America.
To date we have helped over 4,000 aspiring entrepreneurs in New York City and Omaha, Nebraska to start a business, open a savings account and build their credit scores. We are working to open additional branches in locations such as San Francisco and look forward to further support from Whole Foods Market in the Northern California region.
Whole Foods Market’s commitment to raising awareness about, and funds for, Grameen America has been awesome. In addition to the grants from Whole Planet Foundation, their NYC stores held a 5% Day in 2009 that raised $44,000 to fund microlending programs in Queens and last week Whole Foods Market supported the 2nd annual Grameen America Week by donating banana splits for Grameen America staff to hand out in each of the NYC stores, raising awareness during their 30th Anniversary bash. We really appreciate the consistent support from Whole Foods Market for the poor in their local communities. Thank you, Whole Foods Market!