How One Kiva Borrower Started Small but Expanded Big – Meet Ms. Leilita Esparagoza

A HSPFI Lending Team Update.

Ms. Leilita Esparagoza is the owner of Esparagoza Store, a sari-sari (variety) store in Valencia, Bukidnon. Sari-sari stores abound in the Philippines – it’s one of the most popular businesses for HSPFI clients – but it quickly became clear that Leilita is no ordinary sari-sari store owner. As we sat down in front of her store for the interview, I found myself almost mesmerized by her clear, patient voice. She not only had a compelling story, but she also knew how to tell her story well. Leilita was one of the most self-aware and reflective HSPFI borrowers that I had the good fortune to interview in the Philippines – so much so that I wanted to do a more extensive “press profile” interview with her. Unfortunately when we returned to her store later she had left for the afternoon to take care of errands. So I’m sharing her story here instead 🙂

Leilita shared that when she started her business with a small sari-sari store nine years ago. She became a wholesaler for Coke in 2002, and started peddling soft drinks around the local village with just a bicycle. As her business grew, she graduated to peddling with a motorela and started selling soft drinks in other nearby villages. By 2009 she was an exclusive wholesaler of Pepsi products, selling over 1,000 cases of soft drinks a month. Pepsi observed her business success and gave her a blue multicab (or small pick-up truck) as a reward, which helped further her business. The multicab parked in front of her store was an impressive sight indeed, as it was stocked high with piles of Pepsi cases waiting to be distributed.

Impressed, I asked her what the secret to her success was. Leilita smiled and replied that she understands the mood of her customers – so she can put herself in their shoes and handle any situations that may arise. She also discovered the need to be humble and patient, because it takes time to build up a business. Leilita added that she always makes sure that the individual customers could afford to pay the amount for items, as she offers her products for credit that’s good for two days only.

Going forward, Leilita wants her children to finish their studies. This year, Leilita said, she hopes to diversity her inventory to include other Cola products like RC Cola, so she can increase her income. She plans to expand her business until it offers all the products that her customers could need – so that her business can be a one-stop store for her customers.

Having seen how far Leilita has come, her business saavy, and her personal drive, I have no doubt that she will succeed.

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