The Newark-headquartered SPBD Microfinance Network this month surpassed $200 million in “micro loans” disbursed to tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs in the South Pacific.

New Jersey native and SPBD founder/president Greg Casagrande said, “Since our inception in 2000, SPBD has been on a journey to provide meaningful economic opportunity to underprivileged women micro-entrepreneurs. We invest in women, empower their dreams and deliver impact.”

Loreta Umu is one of these micro-entrepreneurs. Umu is a retail shop operator who also cooks and sells barbecue in front of her shop in Savaii, Samoa. Umu was the recipient of a loan that puts SPBD over the $200 million mark.SPBD has disbursed more than 225,000 loans to some 85,000 women micro-entrepreneurs.

Umu joined SPBD in 2012, and over the years her success enabled her to access SPBD’s larger Small-Medium Enterprise (SME) financing, and today she received her third SME loan. With SPBD support, Umu has “significantly improved” her housing and living conditions.

She recounts her journey: “I started out with selling fresh vegetables in front of our house, then sold homemade ice pops and barbecue before expanding my businesses to include my small shop. I would not have been able to achieve much without SPBD, because it’s very hard to get a loan from banks. I strongly believe that SPBD brought us up to where we are now. My family and I used to live in inadequate conditions, and to improve our living space I used my loan. So much has become possible with SPBD. The benefit has not only been in terms of finance but also things like savings, financial literacy, leadership and independence.”

SPBD operates in five countries — Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu — and employs a staff of 169. SPBD currently has 17 offices and offers 16 products and services, including credit, savings, death benefits, financial education and business skills training to its members.

Casagrande also notes, “While it took us 10 years to disburse the first $10 million, today SPBD disburses $10 million worth of loans in less than five months – therefore our impact is also accelerating dramatically. I’m so pleased that we just surpassed $200 million in loans disbursed.”SPBD plans to expand and bring its microfinance products and services to deserving women across the South Pacific to support them to improve the standard of living for themselves and their families.

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