Take notice: this year’s Nobel Peace Price was awarded to a for-profit business and its founder.

Grameen Bank started with one small act: university economics professor Muhammed Yunus lent $27 to some poor women in a neighboring town. He did not intend to start a business, or to get his money back. When the villagers surprised him by paying him back on time, he started to make more of these loans.

Grameen’s customers borrow money to start extremely small businesses, essentially creating their own jobs. These businesses have become an engine of economic development. The Grameen Bank now contributes to more than 1% of the GDP of Bangladesh, and it is owned by the poor women it serves. Women who now support themselves and their families.

And BTW, Grameen’s loan repayment rate is over 98%. (I think that this exceeds the rate of a Citibank or Chase; this is a bit of data I’ll have to look for.)

Google to learn more from your info source of choice — my point is that business is creative, transformative.

What’s the “so what” for comparably wealthy western business owners?

  • Yunnus started small, and learned by doing. He risked his own money, rather than selling his idea to investors.
  • Yunnus took the long view. 8 years passed between his initial loan and formation of Grameen in 1983, and the business model emerged and evolved during that time.
  • Yunnus acted from deep personal values. Raised in a wealthy family, he credits his mother with teaching him compassion for the poor, and a sense of duty.

One small act, with intention, can initiate world-changing results.