November 2018 — Any small- and medium-sized enterprise owner dreams of dynamic business growth and expansion, while inevitably dealing with the realities of adequate financing. Shparkiya Vilki, a food delivery service in Belarus, faced this challenge during their start-up stage.
The company, whose name means “Fast Forks” in Belarusian, was launched by Alfred Service in February 2016 with just three team members. The business grew rapidly with a steep rise in delivery and catering orders, but, to meet high customer demand, it needed a professional convection oven.
Alexander Zhurkevich, the director of Alfred Service, attended an entrepreneurship training in 2016 supported through Belarus’s Republican Microfinance Center and USAID’s Increasing Access to Finance for the Rural Population in Belarus activity. During the financial literacy part of the training, Zhurkevich realized his budding enterprise was losing time and potential customers and needed external financing. He obtained funding through the project’s microfinance program to obtain a new oven through a leasing contract with Finprofit Leasing Co., a project partner.
“After participating in the USAID entrepreneurship training, I gained necessary knowledge and expertise and decided to go ahead in my business development. Key factors for my business’s success are my great team and new professional equipment leased through the USAID-supported micro leasing program,” said Zhurkevich.
The USAID activity aims to broaden economic opportunities for rural populations by raising financial literacy, strengthening entrepreneurial skills, and improving access to microfinance. The project also promotes improved microfinance policies and use of international best practices.
At first, business owners may be reluctant to enter leasing agreements because of the recurring cost. However, leases allow owners to quickly scale their businesses and achieve their goals without taking on higher capital costs.
The new equipment has helped Zhurkevich see a 40 percent increase in orders and has reduced cooking time from 70-80 minutes to 50 minutes. As the speed and quality of deliveries has increased, the number of loyal customers has grown, which has allowed Zhurkevich to hire eight additional staff members and rent a larger space for his thriving business.
As the business continued to develop, Zhurkevich decided to rent space for a café in a business center. He again turned to Finprofit Leasing Co., this time to lease a coffee machine. The company is now able to offer additional menu items, including coffee beverages, desserts, snacks, and breakfast and lunch menus. Previously, Shparkiya Vilki only delivered selected Belarusian food in clay pots. The new offerings helped attract additional customers from the business center and nearby office buildings.
USAID’s Increasing Access to Finance for the Rural Population in Belarus project runs from 2014 to 2019. To date, the project has certified 83 trainers to conduct financial literacy courses, provided financial literacy instruction to more than 3,000 representatives of rural microenterprises, and helped 1,900 people improve their business and agriculture-related skills. With project support, a number of local microfinance institutions have also upgraded their policies and procedures in accordance with international standards to better serve rural entrepreneurs.
,“After participating in entrepreneurship training, I gained necessary knowledge and expertise and decided to go ahead in my business development program.”