by Daniel Schnitzer
EarthSpark received two $50,000 low-interest loans from Deutsche Bank this year. The first was issued in May, and the second in October. These loans provided EarthSpark with cash to purchase inventory as we scaled up with more retailers throughout Haiti and demand began to outstrip our supply. Specifically, the loans allowed EarthSpark to purchase its first full 20′ container of solar lighting products. A purchase of this magnitude resulted in the manufacturer giving high-volume discount pricing, allowing us to pass on lower prices to our retailers and their customers.
The due diligence process for the loans was tough, but highly beneficial to EarthSpark. Deutsche Bank required a detailed business plan and cash flow projections, which forced us to develop a realistic plan for growth. It also helped us understand what systems and practices (such as sales tracking, marketing materials and business training) we needed to prioritize.
We owe special thanks for this loan to Denis O’Brien, the Chairman of Digicel, for first proposing the idea of such a loan to EarthSpark, and Gary Hattem, the Director of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation for opening the door to us. Upon hearing that we secured the first $50,000 loan, Denis provided further assistance by providing a guarantee facility for the next $50,000 loan. EarthSpark’s Board of Directors - Johanna Mendelson Forman and Theodore Steck - were supportive of the decision to take on the loans. We worked closely with Mark Narron at Deutsche Bank throughout the process and are grateful for his thoroughness and support.