SPBD is a network of microfinance organizations working in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Solomon Islands dedicated to eradicating poverty by empowering women in poor rural villages with the opportunity to start, grow and maintain sustainable, income generating micro-enterprises.

Students

SPBD is proud to work with some of the top business schools in the US and in Europe. We currently have ongoing relationships with the following institutions:

  • Columbia Business School
  • Harvard Law School
  • UCLA Anderson School of Business
  • Kellogg School of Management
  • Kelley School of Business
  • Colgate University
  • Oxford University (England)
  • INSEAD (France)

The themes of current and past projects include:

  1. Due Diligence into new markets to launch greenfield MFIs - Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands
  2. New Product Development - Mobile Banking, Remittances, Life Insurance, Loans, Savings, Financial and Business Literacy
  3. Branding, Marketing, Social Media

Each project is very important to SPBD and its results are implemented into its business within 12-24 months of completion of the work. In order to optimize the final solution, SPBD makes available its full Executive Team in the US and its General Managers in the Microfinance Network. In addition, all its proprietary processes and research are provided to assist each team in its work. The student will also spend time in the South Pacific to become knowledgeable of the cultures, see our processes firsthand and meet the required government dignitaries, local banking executives, etc. to garner the best information possible.

We have also started discussions to incorporate projects with regards to photography and videography on the islands of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. We are able to provide permission to photograph and shoot film around the islands, access to village chiefs, translators, in-country transportation and office space with internet.

Please contact us if you would be interested in partnering with us on a project both as a team or as an individual.

Testimonials

By Dominique Beaudry - Duke University Class of 2015

June 2013 - 8 week internship

Photo: Megan, a Kiva fellow on the left, and Dominique on the right

Interning with SPBD Samoa was a one-of-a-kind experience that provided tremendous growth in both personal and professional development. Not to mention, the location of a South Pacific Island can’t be beat! As someone pursuing a career in international development, with a special interest in the role of capital and financial markets, SPBD gave me invaluable insight into the role of microfinance in a least developed nation. I also learned a lot about business development and growth from my supervisor (Ajay Verma), the SPBD workers, and fellow interns because of the balance of individual projects and more collaborative work, for example with the Compliance Officer on the Internal Audit processes and manuals. I worked on a variety of projects, which gave me breadth in understanding different aspects of the business and allowed me to enhance and develop a variety of skills. My supervisor took my insight, work, and requests seriously and helped create a truly mutually beneficial experience. My work with SPBD in the office and in the community was incredibly rewarding and informative; I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. One of my favorite moments of the summer was running into a family at the beach whose lives had been greatly enhanced by a SPBD loan, highlighting the positive impact my work was indirectly having on the community.

By Ryan Thompson - Columbia Business School, M.B.A. Class of 2014

August 2013

Working at SPBD Samoa was a wonderful experience for me. I didn't come from a microfinance background so I viewed the role as an opportunity to explore the field and learn how my financial background could be used to help the very smallest scale of entrepreneurs. Assigned to help launch a new loan product for successful members of the SPBD program, I was able to interact directly with the country GM, the CFO, and the President of the company. Being able to have a direct and meaningful impact on the progression of an untested product was something that I found appealing and ultimately very rewarding. I couldn't be more impressed with the staff, local entrepreneurs and fellow interns that I worked alongside during my placement. In any environment this internship would have provided invaluable industry experience, but adding one of the most naturally beautiful landscapes as a backdrop and immersing yourself in a very unique and tradition rich culture combined to make this experience something that I won’t soon forget.

By Daniel Kurz - UCLA Anderson, M.B.A. Class of 2012

June 2012

Last spring, four of my fellow classmates at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and I worked with SPBD for our capstone project (a 20-week consulting project that students complete as part of their graduation requirements). SPBD asked us to evaluate a small archipelago country in the South Pacific to determine the local demand for microfinance products and services. We were tasked with preparing a market entry strategy that addressed everything from product strategy, to marketing, to financial projections. As part of our primary research, we spent 10 days in the country interviewing local women about their household and financial needs. We also met with other key stakeholders including government officials, commercial banks, accountants, lawyers, and other organizations, such as the mobile carrier, to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s financial sector and business climate.

Working with SPBD on this project was a truly unique experience and something we’ll never forget. With a collective interest in impact investing and economic development, this project allowed us to observe first-hand how organizations like SPBD are positively affecting lives in emerging economies. In addition, this project gave us the opportunity to apply the skills and analytical tools that we have developed as MBA students to make recommendations that will hopefully help thousands of women in poor, rural villages in the South Pacific to start, grow, and maintain sustainable, income-generating businesses and micro-enterprises. Ultimately, this project was one of the most challenging endeavors we undertook during our two years as MBA students, and certainly the most rewarding.

By Cristina Benitez - Columbia Business School Pangea Program - MicroLumbia, M.B.A. Class of 2012

Winter 2012

Our volunteer consulting work with SPBD proved to be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my MBA. I had read and learned about microfinance before, but I didn't really appreciate its impact until I witnessed it through SPBD in Tonga. The goal of our project was to evaluate the options to expand micro insurance in Tonga. In the process, we not only learned about microinsurance, but we immersed ourselves in the culture, people, and businesses in Tonga. By doing so, we were able to understand the important role SPBD plays in the lives of Tongans. It was striking to see how happy the village women were to see SPBD. Many of them opened up to us about the importance of SPBD in their lives and how much they and their villages had improved since they were able to take out SPBD loans. Our experience allowed us to analyze and advise actionable recommendations which we hope will continue to improve the poverty situation in Tonga.

By Laura Fogg - Columbia Business School Pangea Program - MicroLumbia, M.B.A. Class of 2011

Winter 2011

In the winter of 2011, four of my fellow classmates at Columbia Business School and I worked with SPBD to conduct an assessment of customer borrowing needs and SPBD’s current product offering in Tonga. We were tasked with determining whether there was demand amongst existing and prospective customers for SPBD to expand into new product areas such as loans structured specifically for special events like weddings, or more complex “low and grow” products to enable mature customers access to higher loan amounts proportionate to their demonstration of responsible borrowing behavior.

As part of this project, my classmates and I spent a week in Tonga interviewing local women regarding their met and unmet borrowing needs. We conducted focus groups in various villages, participated in official SPBD visits to collect loan payments and discuss the women’s respective artisan businesses, and observed the day to day lifestyles of these women and their families. Of course, we also took time to enjoy the beautiful country: snorkeled in crystal clear waters, took in a traditional Tongan dance show, took a scarily small prop plane to Ha’apai, and ate some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever had.

The experience was, without question, the most memorable experience of my time in business school. I was humbled by the generosity and hospitality we received from SPBD staff and the local Tongans. We were received with open arms, and the Tongans were extremely proud to share with us their culture and traditions. It was truly inspirational to witnessing the impact that SPBD has on the local economy and on these women’s daily lives, and it was clear the extent to which SPBD has improved the standard of living for many of the families with whom they work. I am enthusiastic to learn about the continued positive impacts as SPBD scales its operations in Tonga and throughout the South Pacific, and am proud to have had the opportunity to work with such an influential organization.

By Cynthia Baker - Kellogg School of Management M.B.A. Class of 2009

Summer 2009

During the summer of 2009, four of us from the Kellogg School of Management, headed to Samoa to volunteer at the South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) mircofinance organization. Our project was to develop a mini MBA program to teach basic fundamentals of business to SPBD clients. The mini MBA program consisted of modules that would be presented at village meetings when collections took place. Each module consisted of theory simplified down to the level where the women could relate to it. It also included an exercise or activity to help them learn the lesson. The goal of this program was to help small business owners become more effective in running their businesses with the outcome of reducing default rates.

Over the month we were there, we spent days in the office with the staff learning about the needs of the business owners. We also spent many days in the field trying to understand how we could tailor our modules to situations the business owners could relate to. Being able to meet the business owners and watch the collections was a unique and rewarding experience. Of course there were many fun stops in between the visits and spending time with the staff was always a blast.

In addition to work, we got to live and experience Samoa! An amazing country with an amazing culture. We spent weekends snorkeling, and exploring Upolu (the main island) and one weekend we went to Savaii, one of the other large Samoan islands. Drinking coconuts, swimming, tanning, watching rugby, and hanging out with the locals was a priceless experience. In addition, the hospitality presented to us by SPBD and SPBD staff was way above our expectations. All in all, an unforgettable experience.

Career Opportunities

SPBD is always looking for passionate people to join our team.

Available Jobs

Meet the Founder

Greg Casagrande

Greg Casagrande gave up a successful career at Ford to start his own microfinance network: SPBD. Read More