Farid Sobh

Entrepreneur and client of micro-lender Al Majmoua, an IFC partner.

 

 

I used to have sharp eyes, but they can’t handle heat or fire anymore. I was making good money as an ironsmith, working for long hours with many clients. It was a family business, passed from father to sons. It almost destroyed my eyes though, so I had to look for another job to support my family and keep my sight. That’s why the support from Al Majmoua, IFC client, was critical – it came at the right time. I needed money to start a new business and I didn’t have any saved capital. I’d heard about Al Majmoua from my neighbors and decided to apply for a loan.

 

 

Life is tough and full of challenges and there is no easy way to live it. To live a good life, one needs money. And for someone who is not educated like me, access to well paying jobs is limited and so making money becomes difficult. I only finished preliminary education and then left school to help my family. I’ve worked in many jobs – as a farmer, a chef, an ironsmith – but all of them barely helped me survive. Now I help wholesalers distribute their products to medium and large supermarkets in my neighborhood, through what’s called a cash-van.

 

 

I buy eggs, milk, tissues and plastic goods from farmers and wholesalers, and go to grocery markets to sell these products after adding a small markup. It is easier for shop owners to deal with me because they don’t have to leave their business and search for products. I bring everything to their doorstep.

 

 

My business is still small, but I am serious about growing it. I use this small storage area to store my goods, but I want to expand it and fill it with a bigger variety of items. The more products I buy and distribute, the more money I make. This will help fulfill my family’s needs and demands. I created this space and filled it with products using the first loan I acquired from Al Majmoua, a $1,000 microloan, which only took a week to come through. I also used a part of it, in addition to some money I’d saved, to build a second floor on this house. 

 

 

In the first year, I used to walk around on foot to find clients, which didn’t get me very far. So I used a second loan of $1,500 to buy a small van, smaller than this one, so I could go to other neighbors and find more clients. But it was too small and couldn’t take a lot of goods. So later on, I used a third loan of $3,000 to buy this van, which helps me distribute more products. I started off with just five clients in my neighborhood – now I have around 50 clients across the whole town. I wouldn’t have reached this point without the loans. The interest is also less than a fifth of what I make every month.

 

 

But it is not all for business. Personal development is good too. This year, I used a $3,000 loan to buy a family car, because I cannot take my family out in the van. It is not brand new, but it is in good shape. I use the family car to take my wife and kids out on picnic trips and we have fun reminiscing. So the money I got from Al Majmoua didn’t just help improve my business, it improved my personal life as well.

 


We met at a picnic. Joumana, my wife, is from the same area, Aley. She is a strong woman and a kind mother, and she supported me when I was switching jobs. Now we have three children, two boys and one girl, Mirna, who is the closest to my heart. Mirna is very kind and still young, so she doesn’t have a lot of demands, unlike her elder brother, who wants a laptop to play games. The three of them go to school and I hope to continue to support their education. The boys want to join the army when they grow up, which is a respectable job here in Lebanon.