__________________________________________________________ This document has been made available in electronic format by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA ---------------------------------------------- October 1995 ************** Sweet Success ************** Sri Lankan woman opens candy store Special Report from WOCCU When Alice Pallewela of Sri Lanka needed money to support her family, she turned to what she knew~candy and her credit union. This unlikely combination changed her life and her village~s perception of its credit union. A sticky situation After Pallewela married, her husband, a government employee, transferred to Yodagama, which was once an ancient village during the time when kings ruled Sri Lanka. Today, this tiny hamlet, in the Ratnapura District, attracts Sri Lankans from the south, who have settled in Yodagama under the government's agricultural colony scheme. "Not everyone can be a farmer. Some have to be artisans and microentrepreneurs. I knew I needed to start my own business to supplement my husband's small salary," explained Pallewela. After she decided to go into business for herself, Pallewela needed to choose what type of business. She said that choice was easy. It had to be candy. "I've always loved sweets. I especially enjoy the traditional preparations done during the festival seasons." It proved to be the right niche; the closest candy seller was 50 miles away. Recipe for a business After six months of data collection, Pallewela said she decided to sell only a few varieties of candy, those that could be produced using the raw materials available locally. She now needed to purchase some equipment. Pallewela's credit union granted her request for a loan of US$100. "The credit union was there for me from the beginning, offering me both technical advice and the credit necessary to build my candy business." Sri Lanka's credit union movement Credit unions first appeared in Sri Lanka in 1906. Since that time, the number has grown to almost 7,000, which serve close to 700,000 people, accounting for a six percent market penetration rate. Working with SANASA (the Sri Lanka Credit Union Federation), the World Council of Credit Unions over the last 10 years has used U.S. Agency for International Development funds to strengthen that country's credit unions so they can provide needed services to members like Pallewela. The efforts are paying off as members saved about US$31 million and received US$23.5 million in loans by year-end 1994. Taste of success Pallewela's business now draws enough profit for her to save regularly, allowing her credit union to lend to other entrepreneurs. In fact, since first helping Pallewela, the credit union's membership has grown; nothing is more powerful than word-of-mouth endorsements. As for Pallewela's business, she now employs six young women, all of whom have become partners, and her product is recognized as one of good quality in the market. "I own a business~something many only dream of doing. But I no longer have to dream thanks to my credit union."