Emergency Funding and COVID-19 Crisis Counseling for Miller Center Entrepreneurs
By Anne Field
Back in March and April, the folks at the Pollinate Group were in a state of emergency, like most small businesses around the world. For the past seven years, the Melbourne, Australia-based enterprise had trained and developed women in poor areas in India and Nepal, teaching them the skills needed to sell solar lights, clean cookstoves and other products likely to improve community members’ quality of life. But when Covid-19 hit, the impact was devastating to those local economies, as well as residents’ health. Plus, the company had to pull staff from the field, stopping sales dead in their tracks.
Realizing that the communities they served had an urgent need for essentials, Pollinate started working with NGOs in the area to distribute food to almost 15,000 people. But with no sales coming in and the company now entirely dependent on grants, what was the right next step? “We were at a bit of a loss,” says Biheng Zhang, director of philanthropy. “Distributing food is not our core business.”
Photo courtesy of Knut-Erik Helle