Entrepreneurship Empowers Families

Myint Myint Moe and her family moved to Yangon, looking for better employment and a better life. They set up a home in Hlaingthayar, the largest and poorest township of Yangon, and a common landing point for the tens of thousands of people migrating to Yangon from the country-side every year. Her daughter began to attend school, and the additional annual school fees finally made it clear to Myint Myint Moe — if the family were to advance, she would need to find employment soon.
Myint Myint decided to open her own shoe shop. She applied for ONOW’s STARTUP program as soon as it launched in Hlaingthayar. She says, “I enjoyed the way ONOW teaches with activities and discussions. I’ve never taken a training like that before. Now I recommend to all of my friends to take the ONOW STARTUP course.”

Her market research during STARTUP showed her that customers wanted more shoe styles to choose from. She recently chose to invest in diversifying her selection of shoes, and is waiting to see the results. We hope her customers will love the new options!

Read the full story here.

Myint Myint Moe at her new shoe shop with ONOW support staff. She now has dozens of styles of shoes for sale.

Myint Myint Moe at her new shoe shop with ONOW support staff. She now has dozens of styles of shoes for sale

Watch this short video of Myint Myint Moe in her shop!

Youth Entrepreneurs catch a break with ONOW

19 year old Khaing Khaing Htay grew up in the Delta region. She dropped out of school in eighth grade to help her family by getting a job as a housekeeper at a hotel. After her mother died in 2013, Khaing Khaing came to Yangon and lived with her aunt while working at a garment factory for two years. She saved up a little money and started a small cosmetics shop at the 1-2-4 market. She had only a little investment capital, and couldn’t afford to buy much inventory for her shop.

She heard about Opportunities NOW from her friend and she knew right away that our program was for her. She applied as soon as she could and was thrilled when she was chosen to take the class. Khaing Khaing says, “I enjoyed the class very much and I wish the same training was available in my own village in the Delta. Then my friends and neighbors could learn what it takes to start their own businesses!

Khaing Khaing Htay gained an opportunity through our youth STARTUP program. We were able to work with her one-on-one to narrow her target customer, cut her overhead costs, and build her financial plan. And we were able to help her find the capital she needs to grow her business! ONOW is growing the STARTUP program to empower more young Entrepreneurs just like Khaing Khaing Htay!

Watch this video of a typical STARTUP class like the one Khaing Khaing Htay attended.

Where did My Money Go?

The first creation of the ONOW Lab is released!

The “kyat” is Myanmar’s currency. Our new mobile app, “Kyat Manager”, is the first Myanmar-language small business financial management app. It helps entrepreneurs record transactions and really understand their financial position. The data we collect and the innovative way we use it allows small businesses to make informed and proactive decisions for business success. They can respond to and avoid the shocks that can ruin a business and throw a family into poverty.
ONOW recently presented Kyat Manager at the “Harnessing the Data Revolution for Resilience” Summit. Experts on data collection and international development from around Southeast Asia discussed how collecting and analyzing data in the new age of connectivity can help build resilience in poor and vulnerable populations.

From 75 submissions, Kyat Manager was one of 10 finalists chosen in two categories. We didn’t win 🙁 but we were a Top 5 finalist in the Early Stage Innovations category! Besides a cool Finalist trophy, the real reward is seeing our work making a tangible impact on poverty through financial literacy.

Seeing the People in the Scenery

Ngapali Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world says: tripadvisor voters. This beach, the most expensive in Myanmar, is somewhat ironically located in Rakhine State, which is one of the poorest parts of the country. Not far from the beach, where foreigners rarely go, people live their entire lives unnoticed by the world outside. Seven kilometers up a narrow, dusty road that winds through quiet valleys planted with rice and rubber trees you will find the sleepy town of Thandwe. Thandwe is the location of Opportunities NOW’s newest branch office. Our branch manager and his wife have the distinction of being the only foreigners living in the town, and our school has the distinction of being one of the only trainings of any kind in the area. Other than a few computer shops offering occasional computer skills training, the people of Thandwe must bus 12 hours to Yangon to get quality further education. This is why we are excited about the location. Just because there is no training doesn’t mean people aren’t doing business, and just because youth can go to Yangon for jobs doesn’t mean they wouldn’t rather stay with their families and homes. Youth just like Thet Su Su Nyein, who a few weeks ago became the first youth business launch from the new Thandwe office. Thet Su Su Nyein used our training and loan to open a first of its kind fashion shop on the main road. She knows exactly who the customers are in the town who have been waiting for a shop like hers to open. We are thrilled by the opportunities this business will give her as she realizes potential that no one else has ever called out of her.

100 Businesses for Financial Inclusion

Earlier this month, in a small community center in Yangon, Myanmar, ONOW staff were thrilled to award startup loans to these women, surpassing 100 enterprise loans in total since we began in 2012. In Hlaing Thar Yar township, the most populated, and poorest township in Yangon, most women work long hours, 6 days a week in dangerous factories nearby. Many of these women will use their loans to sell clothing or other items to their coworkers in the factories. With our help, we believe that each of them can expand their sales territory and reach an income level that allows them to leave the hardship and uncertainty of factory work to concentrate on their businesses and take control of their financial future. Of the 108 total loans awarded in nearly four years, 34 of these loans have been to youth and 53 have been to women. All of them lacked the necessary support and access to capital to launch a viable small enterprise. We are so proud of their dedication and hard work in order to complete our rigorous training. Over 250 people have entered our programs over the years, and nearly half, including these women, have graduated with a business launch.

Financial Inclusion, Financial Literacy, and Access to Finance

Moving into the future, financial inclusion will become more important to Myanmar’s successful advance. More women and youth can benefit from access to business development support than ever before. New enterprises change the financial landscape of their communities. The entrepreneurship and management training, creative skills development, financial literacy tools, and access to finance that Opportunities NOW provides are more essential than ever. Here’s to the next 100 Entrepreneurs!