Social Business Thrives

When Roland Vanderburg prepared to live and serve in El Salvador, he was warned not to carry two of anything—because the people there are so enterprising that they would want to buy one of them from him.

Vanderburg now seeks to tap into this entrepreneurial spirit with which God has blessed so many Salvadorans.

Vanderburg serves with Christian Reformed World Missions at Seeds of a New Creation, a ministry training center in the heart of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. Recently he has worked alongside leaders by helping with the development of social businesses.

“Social businesses are all about affirming local capacities,” explained Vanderburg. “Some look like nonprofits, and some look like for-profit businesses, but they are all mission-driven.”

Vanderburg has also helped to develop the “Social Enterprise Project Fund,” which allows new or growing social businesses to obtain a loan to cover some of their initial costs.

One of the people these loans have helped is Wilfredis, who has been repairing bikes for much of his working life.

Wilfredis lives in the coastal community of San Marcelino, a tourist hotspot featuring one of the flattest areas in El Salvador. When his supervisor at the bike repair shop where he worked passed away, he no longer had access to the tools or parts he needed.

Thanks to a startup loan from the social business fund, Wilfredis is back to doing what he does best. He is also teaching at-risk youth in the community to do bike repairs. So far, his business is thriving, and Wilfredis is working on expanding his business to include bike rentals.

“Every time I visit, he has more parts and more bikes to work on,” said Vanderburg.

Wilfredis’ bicycle repair business is just one of many that have developed from this fund, and Vanderburg has seen positive change that extends well beyond the business leaders themselves.

“Wilfredis knew that the nearby church was raising money to build a latrine, so he payed the bill himself,” said Vanderburg. “This really shows the ripple effect of the businesses.”

About the Author

Christian Reformed World Missions