Our vision is for an Australia where all people have access to support and finance for commercial activities. The people we work with typically possess the ideas and skills to establish sustainable businesses but, for various reasons, have lacked the necessary financial support to do so.
Initially developed through a series of pilot programs by global microfinance leader Opportunity International, Many Rivers Opportunities (as it was originally known) was established in 2007 and began operating in Grafton NSW.
Many Rivers’ Microenterprise Development Managers (MEDM) live and work in the region that they serve. MEDMs are responsible for providing micro and small business development support to people wanting to establish and develop their own businesses.
MEDMs are able to recommend the approval of micro and small business loans to provide a capital injection, if this is required, to enable Clients to establish and grow their businesses. Loans are provided following a successful evidence-based assessment, taking into account the individual’s character, capacity and cashflow. Collateral, as loan security, is not required. Loans require the support of two Many Rivers’ MEDMs and approval by our Head of Microenterprise Development.
Many Rivers will seek to support any person who has a “real” business idea and is “fair dinkum” in their desire to make this idea real. We do not differentiate by race, gender or creed.
We offer micro and small business loans of up to $5,000 for a sole business owner and up to $10,000 for businesses with additional owners. Many Rivers can provide larger loans once we have worked with and have gotten to know our Clients.
See Many Rivers Lending Policy.
We believe Many Rivers’ approach is unique because:
- We go where we are invited – by the community and funding organisations;
- We are very practical – focusing on how to get the business activity going, addressing personal and business readiness;
- Our approach is personalised – driven by the individual’s needs and goals;
- We spend time – to “unlock” client’s concerns and establish confidence and trust;
- We can provide access to finance – trust-based lending, no collateral;
- We provide fast loan disbursement – when the person is ready to start;
- We provide a “real loan with a real bank” – through our strategic alliance with Westpac;
- We “ride the bumps” – as the person’s business starts and develops;
- We live and work in the region – providing business development support in the community;
- We collaborate and work in partnership – with good existing service providers.
WORKING WITH WESTPAC
Westpac has given Many Rivers the capacity to originate and approve the provision of Westpac microfinance loans to individual business borrowers. As such, Many Rivers remains solely responsible for loan decisions based on their assessment of client’s capital need, character and repayment capacity. Lending criteria has been agreed between Westpac and Many Rivers.
Westpac is providing Many Rivers’ clients with access to loan funds through a ‘real’ Westpac business loan – helping build a credit history with a major bank. Many Rivers’ clients are typically unable to meet the credit requirements of mainstream banking and often experience financial exclusion.
Westpac microfinance loans are interest bearing (at a subsidised interest rate) and are offered on an unsecured basis. Westpac operates its microfinance loans on a non-profit basis.
We measure success by comparing our client’s situation before and after a loan considering four factors:
- Income is being generated by the business
- An income-generating asset is owned by the business
- The business is continuing after the loan is repaid
- The client regards the business as their job
Our goal is that at least half of our clients positively achieve all four measures. This is currently being achieved across all of services.
Our work is made possible by the financial support of philanthropic donors and foundations, along with corporates, Indigenous corporations and government partners.
In FY2017/18, Many Rivers’ funding was derived from the following streams:
- 13% – Philanthropic donors and foundations
- 39% – Corporate Partnerships
- 48% Federal Government