Many of us enjoy crafting and making jewelry. For some, it stops there. Others have gone on to sell their much admired work which also helps fund their hobbies. For the lucky few, it becomes their vocation. But craftswomen in the developing world, trying to start out face a huge barrier because they lack the capital to buy what they need.

The concept of micro-credit loans began with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. The founder, an economics professor, Muhammad Yunus noticed some poor rural women paying crippling loan interests just to buy the bamboo to make simple furniture. The pittance they made kept them in abject poverty. These women had no collateral but he advanced them small interest-free loans anyway. His first efforts were successful and the idea blossomed.

The repayment rate is well over 90%, far better than conventional business loans. Better yet, these businesses thrived and the women were able to use their own talents to earn an income and better their lives and those of their families. In 2006, Yunus and the Grameen Bank shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

Also in 2006, a remarkable young woman, Rebecca Kousky (St Louis, Missouri) still only in her twenties, took this concept one step further and established a non-profit organisation called Build A Nest. She had volunteered abroad before in India and Mexico. She came back determined to "change the world one purchase at a time". Ironically, Rebecca herself was turned down for a business loan (no savings, no collateral) when she wanted to open a shop selling merchandise for struggling artisans abroad. So she put on her creative hat and went online.

There are a couple of outstanding points about her idea. Firstly, Build A Nest is creating and connecting communities of craftswomen in both the developed and developing world. Secondly, it provides an international marketplace for the products produced by the loan recipients. Build-a-Nest partners with emerging artisans in the US (so far) who create unique items for sale and donate part of the proceeds to use as loans. One such partner is Juliana's Creations who was a featured designer on this blog.

Rebecca is wondrous a loan as little as $50 (perhaps a pair of shoes for us) has the ability to change a woman's life somewhere else in this world. I was delighted to learn the first loan recipient was a jewelry artisan, Mercel Tuncer, from Izmit, Turkey. Rebecca herself is sporting an older Nest necklace (no longer sold) in the picture.

Build-a Nest shows that "entrepreneurship, social activism and microfinance" can all be combined into a successful business model and benefit our global village. You can see her CNN "Young People Who Rock" interview report here. She has also been featured in numerous print journals shown here.

Photo with kind permission from Rebecca.