Large sunflowers and vivid roses line the sidewalk in front of Paulina’s storefront in Ambato, Ecuador. “I put them out and children began to pass by and would ask for a rose, so I would give them a bouquet,” she said. Soon, more and more people began purchasing her floral arrangements and her business began to take off.
As a single mother of three and an entrepreneur, Paulina’s store is the center of her family’s life and livelihood. “I am a single mother, and they are my life,” she says. “Having this place means there is also a place for my children. They go to their schools and lessons and then they come back and spend time here at the store. They have a place to be.”
Paulina started by selling clothing in her small storefront. She expanded her business and began selling gifts and flowers as more people requested her floral arrangements. To grow her business — the main source of income for herself and her children — she needed capital to invest in her store.
It has always been challenging for small business owners, especially women, to get the support they need to thrive, and the pandemic made everything harder. Paulina recalls that time, saying, “I felt unprotected, had no work, and wasn’t able to do anything.” Innovative digital financial tools and services became a lifeline during this uncertain time. These tools helped millions of small business owners improve and grow their businesses by increasing their ability to repay loans and access credit to cover business expenses and inventory needs.
Digital products can build the financial health of small businesses and empower the women who own them. For Paulina, digital products make it easier to juggle her business and family responsibilities. “The time that it takes to go to a bank, fill out forms, and go with the little ones is slow and tiring for the children as well. But this is not so with digital,” she says. And it’s not just about the convenience — from our research, more than 70 percent of women small business owners reported that the financial health of their businesses had improved because of new digital banking products.
Banco Pichincha in Ecuador has been an Accion partner for more than two decades and is the largest financial institution in Ecuador, with a 115-year history. More than half of Banco Pichincha’s customers are women.
Accion worked with Banco Pichincha to drive adoption of the bank’s digital payment wallet, Billetera DeUna. After 12 months of using the DeUna app, 72 percent of women small business owners surveyed said the product improved their financial health, and 80 percent said they felt less overwhelmed about managing their expenses and debt. “With the development of online and digital credit, the client is able to manage themselves with the help of our credit agents, which allows us to be available at all times,” remarks Beatriz Vazquez, the Microfinance Strategy Manager for Banco Pichincha. “The clients who make use of this credit are usually women because they require greater availability depending on their kind of work.”
Now that Paulina has the credit she needs at her fingertips, she is hopeful about the future, saying, “I’ve evolved, innovated, and grown. I have invested in things that are very helpful for my business. I feel I am financially sound for my children.”