In many countries, most businesses are small or microenterprises. It can be difficult for these businesses to grow, because they often do not have access to loans, and the people who run them may not have any business training. This is the case in El Salvador. Micro- and small businesses (with fewer than 10 and 50 employees, respectively) make up 98 percent of Salvadoran companies. But there are few resources to help these businesses succeed.
Luis Alberto Zelaya, who started a maintenance service for industrial machines called SEMPROFES, is one of these entrepreneurs. “Like many other people, we are looking for institutions that can help us, but they are very difficult to find,” Luis said. Then he found out about a small business development center run by the University of Sonsonate.
The university center trained Luis in marketing, quality assurance, and effective customer service. It also helped SEMPROFES become accredited to work with a major client. With this assistance, Luis strengthened and expanded his small business and secured a major $1.5 million contract with the Autonomous Executive Port Commission. “It was a real blessing,” Luis said about the help he received at the center. A few years ago, the small business development center that Luis visited did not exist. Now, there is a network of them across El Salvador. The centers were founded by the Salvadoran National Commission for Micro and Small Enterprise — known by its Spanish acronym, CONAMYPE— and they were expanded and strengthened with support from the USAID-funded Small and Medium Enterprise Development Program.