Improving the livelihoods of small shopkeepers in Latin America

Small-scale shopkeepers, known locally as tenderos, are the beating heart of many communities across Latin America. For us, they also represent an important outlet through which to sell our beers, accounting for around 40% of our sales volumes in the region.

But life is not always easy for a tendero. Many of these shops are run on a subsistence basis, earning just enough revenue to meet the daily needs of the owners and their families. Others lack formal business registration, which makes it difficult to access finance from mainstream providers such as banks, or they may be missing one or more of the required licences and permits to operate, due to a lack of understanding of the relevant regulations.

For some time now, our Latin American businesses have been helping micro enterprises like the tenderos to become a part of the formal economy.

For example, the Oportunidades Bavaria programme in Colombia has enabled more than 10,000 tenderos to obtain micro credit worth more than US$15 million, while the Progresando Juntos (Progressing Together) initiative in El Salvador aims to provide market opportunities for micro enterprises in sectors including retail and farming.

Now this initiative is being broadened to cover six Latin American countries – Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador – supporting 40,000 tenderos who, between them, serve around 1.7 million households and more than seven million people.

The new phase is called 4e, Camino al Progreso (Path to Progress) and represents an innovative model for alleviating poverty, formalising businesses and promoting social inclusion. We are running it in partnership with the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank, and FUNDES.

Through 4e, tenderos have the opportunity to develop the skills that will improve the sustainability of their businesses as well as the quality of life of their families. It also equips them to make a fuller contribution to improving the welfare and development of communities where they live.

The ‘4e’ of the programme’s title reflects the four stages (etapas) that tenderos pass through. These are:

  • Stage I – Responsible Tendero: where they are helped to improve their business and leadership skills.
  • Stage II – Sustainable Tendero: with the development of their tiendas (shops), they can provide better opportunities for their family and undertake a business project where everyone can participate and benefit.
  • Stage III – Excellent Tendero: tenderos are helped to grow their tiendas, bringing new products and improving services so they can generate positive changes in their community.
  • Stage IV – Leader Tendero: tenderos are guided in ways to stimulate positive changes in their neighbourhood by identifying needs and taking leadership in problem-solving.




Practical benefits offered by the programme include improved marketing and retailing skills, access to credit and financial services and assistance with business formalisation, including relevant permits to operate.

Responsible retailing is another key aspect of 4e – tenderos are encouraged to request identification when selling alcohol and not to sell alcohol to anyone under their country’s legal drinking age.

“The 4e programme can act as an instrument for broader social change, particularly when one considers the leadership potential of the retailers we will reach out to and their ability to make a difference in their communities.

“Our experience to date suggests that if we can more effectively combine business, government and civil society in support of enterprise development, we stand a much greater chance of driving economic growth and human development more sustainably and at scale.

Human development and growth in prosperity are our strongest interest here and we want to help ensure that the Latin American region fulfils its abundant potential. If societies thrive, business also thrives.
Karl Lippert | President of SABMiller Latin America

The 4e programme is playing an important role in terms of empowering women, who run 70% of these small stores as head of the household. According to the World Bank, economically empowering women boosts GDP, enhances productivity and feeds other development outcomes including those for children. Levelling the gender playing field can, in time, also lead to a fairer and more inclusive society.

Maria Sonia Vasquez, from El Salvador (featured in the video above), is a typical tendera who is benefiting from the programme. Maria and her husband were both unemployed, but she did not want a future where they were unable to provide for their children.

So she opened up a very small grocery store, gradually moving on to preparing and selling food. And now, with the help of the 4e programme, she has been able to establish a successful and thriving diner.

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