I have just returned from an incredible summer internship as an Accion Ambassador at Grupo Compartamos in Mexico City. Looking back on my time, I feel so fortunate to have had the experiences I had: participating in the strategic planning for the Compartamos Foundation, seeing some of the microfinance operations in the field, and being part of a large yet tight-knit community for eight weeks. In my last week there, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ivan Mancillas, one of the founders of Compartamos and my boss there.
Ivan is the Director of the Compartamos Foundation and the developer behind several different Compartamos departments throughout his 20+ years there. In his early twenties, Ivan was a microentrepreneur himself; he owned three different businesses: carpentry, snacks and sandwiches. Coincidentally, he met Carlos Labarthe, Compartamos’ Co-Founder and CEO in college. Carlos invited Ivan to volunteer at a youth conference in Guatemala, where they were put in charge of organizing the meals for 1,000 people. This task inspired the two to begin a similar food distribution program in 1987, this time under the name of Compartamos (Spanish for “we share”). After Ivan finished his college education, he continued volunteering part-time and then began working at a company called More Business Forms. About a year later, he received a call from Carlos with a job offer to volunteer full time at Compartamos. Although hesitant to give up his job, he finally agreed. From then on, the two transformed the food distribution program into a fully-fledged microfinance operation.