Students Innovating for Impact: Pajebal

First year student Rob Krieger’s path to the Fuqua School of Business was not your typical one. After completing a twelve-month Corporate Management Training Program at North Fork Bank (a New York-based bancorporation currently owned by Capital One Financial), Rob decided to make a significant change.  That change brought him to the rural western highlands of Guatemala where he served for two years as a Peace Corps Small Business Development Volunteer.

During his time in Guatemala, Rob saw the need to increase the standard of living in the community and the potential of existing local small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs to do just that.  He realized that by providing access to capital, along with the guidance and know-how, these small business and micro-entrepreneurs could prosper and transform their communities.  So, Rob founded Pajebal, a nonprofit organization which provides low-interest, US-originated loans (slightly larger than what would be provided by traditional microfinance organizations) and training to organizations that Pajebal identifies as high-potential.

In Rob’s own words, “I founded Pajebal so that I could continue to give back to the village that took me in like family during my Peace Corps service—the community that helped me to understand how profoundly interconnected we all are on this planet, and what we can achieve when we work together. Pajebal provides hard-working, entrepreneurial Guatemalans with the guidance, training, and capital to foster sound business management, intelligent use of capital, and a more prosperous life for themselves and their families.”

Despite Pajebal’s success, Rob knew they he could do more.  Along with fellow Fuqua first year Jessie Margolis, Rob is planning to substantially alter Pajebal’s operations and develop a new internet-based microfinance model.

Instead of the traditional online microfinance model where many individual lenders provide funding to one micro/small business, Pajebal is proposing a business-to-business one-lender-one-borrower dynamic, wherein a single U.S. business will finance and mentor a single business in the developing world, via the U.S. companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) portfolios.

Rob and Jessie plan to build off of the success Pajebal has had in western Guatemala – launching the new model there and then looking to scale to other areas of Latin America over time. To help fund this new model, Rob and Jessie are currently participating in the Net Impact LiquidNet Impact Challenge.  This challenge offers students the chance to pitch ideas for transforming charitable giving in to smarter investing.  Winning teams will share $15,000 in cash prizes.

As Jessie Margolis stated, “If our innovation idea wins, the prize money would help to fund the steady growth of Pajebal.  There is incredible potential for Pajebal to channel more expertise from its investors by establishing new kinds of partnerships and adapting information exchange practices. With increased funding, we will be able to achieve our goal, and our dream, of innovative business-to-business collaboration and mentorship, as outlined in our Liquidnet Impact Challenge proposal.”