Purple Shoots creates long term, sustainable change for the people we support. Our loans enable our borrowers to create businesses which provide a pathway for them out of debt and the benefits system and the hopelessness of unemployment. The economic and social impacts are huge both for them and for their wider communities. Money given to us can go round and round several times and all our borrowers will say that our belief in them and our small loan transformed their lives.

But fundraising is still a challenge for us – and there are some objections which come up frequently so I thought I would tackle them head on in a series of short blogs. The second one is around the people and businesses we support.

“You’ll lose all your money”

This was said to me more than once when we were starting out. Behind this statement are a whole raft of attitudes and assumptions about the people we support which need to be fundamentally overturned.

Since Victorian times, we have been talking about the “undeserving poor” and this idea has never quite gone away. There is a widespread belief that people who are poor in this country somehow deserve to be there because they are lazy, don’t try hard enough or work hard enough, are content to sit back on benefits etc and therefore if you lend them money to start a business, they will inevitably fail. This is the attitude, I believe, behind the Government’s failure to support small sole traders during the current pandemic, behind the banks’ and other credit providers’ assessment of these people as “high risk” and it adds to the difficulties for anyone who finds themselves in poverty because it becomes impossible to dig themselves out.

Unless somebody lends them money to start a business.

Many of those who have no empathy with people in poverty have forgotten or never appreciated the advantages they began with – a stable home, growing up in a nice area with good schools, good physical and mental health, living in an area where there are multiple opportunities, being encouraged to believe in yourself or just getting a lucky break. Whilst not everyone who doesn’t have these advantages ends up in poverty, many do, and none of that is because they are lazy or work shy. Others find themselves in poverty because they have been made redundant, had a long term illness, had a relationship break down or a bereavement. These things can happen to anyone and the spiral down into poverty can be surprisingly fast.

The short answer to that objection is that we haven’t lost all our money – otherwise we wouldn’t have survived as long as we have. The people we meet and support are the very opposite of the stereotype our media and our minds paint of a person on benefits. They are hard-working, determined, resilient (as proven by the current pandemic where they have persevered and survived through great hardship and many without any Government help), innovative, entrepreneurial and inspirational. No one who comes to us for a loan wants to be on benefits – without exception they are seeking to build a way out of their situation and into an independent life, using their skills and developing their ideas. They aren’t looking for “help” – they are just looking to be treated the same as anyone else in a more advantaged situation, to have the same opportunity to create their own future as others who are better off.

Our loans are transformative, enabling people to create a pathway out of poverty. We have many stories of people who were struggling and in debt who have been able to repay all the debt and to build a better life for themselves and their families through the business they have created. The loans also benefit local economies: wealth created tends to stay there, with local people employed and local suppliers used (with the added benefit of a much smaller carbon footprint).

SO PURPLE SHOOTS IS WORTH SUPPORTING! Donations, large and small, help us keep going and growing what we do, creating sustainable change for people overlooked and undervalued by everyone else.

The last blog will look at another objection which relates to microfinance and the value of small business.