MicroVentures Inc. launched a microfinancing programme particularly structured to cater to so-called “sari-sari” stores in a bid to lift poverty in one of Asia’s poorest nations, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Philippines has a bustling community of sari-sari stores – kiosks usually carved out of the owner’s houses which sell a variety of goods in pieces or smaller packets. The stores are commonplace in neighborhoods and despite their size are widely used as they usually beat grocery stores for their proximity and convenience. Despite the low start-up capital needed to start one, these stores generate an substantial amount of family income.

The ‘Hapinoy program’ – a combination of “happy” and “Pinoy” (Filipino) – was launched by MicroVentures in 2007 aiming to help small family-run store owners to make their ventures profitable. According to the Journal, the program also helps owners to access loans funded by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) which was modeled after Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank.

Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, who helped to establish the concept of micro-financing, told the Journal that “if the poor, particularly women, can gain access to credit and generate their own income, that could consequently address the problem of poverty”.

Five years on, Paolo Benigno Aquino, co-founder of the program, says Hapinoy was able to help thousands of “sari-sari” stores across the country. “You get to see the transformation on the ground,” Mr. Aquino said. The company is one of the 12 finalists in The Wall Street Journals’ Asian Innovation Awards.