How 30,000 small businesses moved online during the pandemic

In the borough of Suba in Bogotá, Colombia, Paola runs her family business, Ferretería Figureroa y Centro de Soluciones, or Figueroa Hardware Store and Solutions Center. Paola explains that they call their store a solutions center because, “If we don’t have something, we get it.”

When COVID-19 spread in early 2020, the pandemic’s economic and financial crisis hit her business hard. The crisis forced her to cut her expenses, and she took it upon herself to find a way to boost sales during the pandemic. Paola told us, “The reality is that it was not easy.” Paola then found a way to start selling her goods over the internet through CÍVICO’s small business platform. Once she got her business online, more and more people began buying her products. One year later, her hardware store has seen significant growth in sales and is doing better than ever. She says, “We wouldn’t have survived had it not been for [CÍVICO].”

CÍVICO is a Colombian startup, which also operates in Mexico City and Santiago de Chile, that is transforming cities through digital and financial inclusion for underserved micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The CÍVICO platform offers an app for small business owners, called CÍVICO Negocios App, to create a digital presence for their businesses. Small business owners can use the app to sell their products, connect with local consumers, offer home delivery of products, and accept digital payments. By providing an easy tool to buy and sell online, this app has helped many MSMEs stay in business during the pandemic and contributed to the growing digital ecosystem in the city, improving the quality of life for small business owners and their customers.

As part of the global partnership between Accion and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, CÍVICO has expanded its value proposition for microentrepreneurs by offering financial services within their platform to help their small businesses grow. CÍVICO and Accion worked together to develop a loan product using a human-centered design methodology, incorporating customer feedback and data throughout the development process. To date, this product has helped more than 1,000 merchants receive the credit that they need to grow.

Through this partnership, CÍVICO also developed a merchant assessment tool where merchants share data that allows CÍVICO to assess their needs and offer the most suitable credit product. At the same time, CÍVICO cross-references these profiles with its existing data to better understand their clients’ behaviors and the state of their financial health. Using this information, CÍVICO can gather information to identify how to better use alternative data for credit scoring, improve its direct lending product, and find suitable partners to scale their digital loan offering.CÍVICO Negocios App interface

CÍVICO Negocios App offers digital and financial services to help small merchant owners to transform their business.

In 2020, CÍVICO partnered with the Bogotá’s Mayor’s Office to launch “Despega Bogotá,” the city’s ambitious digital program created to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program has dramatically expanded financial inclusion for small businesses in Bogotá and has helped many micro entrepreneurs strengthen and grow their businesses. Today, CÍVICO works with more than 30,000 businesses in Bogotá and Mexico City. These businesses offer more than 40,000 products on the platform, generating more than 10,000 transactions totaling more than $250,000 in sales to date.

Small businesses like Paola’s are the engine of the Colombian economy. A platform such as CÍVICO’s can help them build resilience to crises such as this one and continue growing their businesses by connecting them to the digital ecosystem. We are proud to support CÍVICO in their efforts as they advance financial inclusion in Colombia. As CÍVICO’s CEO Ricardo Pombo states, “The constant development of digital tools allows us to address our clients’ needs and is instrumental to fulfilling our purpose of generating digital and financial inclusion, and by doing such, we support our clients’ economic reactivation.” By investing in digital tools that help micro entrepreneurs build better businesses and better lives, we can bridge the financial services gap and bring financial inclusion to more people.