After originally setting up two branches in Brussels, microStart is pursuing expansion in Flanders and Wallonia. In November 2014 microStart opened two new branches in Antwerp and Charleroi, respectively.
Even before the new branches at Charleroi and Antwerp were officially opened, microStart already succeeded in creating 40 new jobs in each city.
Since microStart launched nearly four years ago, it has helped many people who are unable to go through the traditional banking system to set up their own business by granting them a micro-loan plus free advice and support. During these four years microStart has helped to create no fewer than 600 jobs.
As a matter of fact, a recent study by the Vlerick Business School, commissioned by BNP Paribas Fortis, the main partner in microStart, demonstrates the positive impact which the microStart initiative has had on job creation, thus helping to combat poverty and social marginalisation in Belgium.
Francine Carron, microStart manager in Antwerp, pointed out that the microcredit provider proved an immediate success in the large port city.
“We were already meeting with customers at temporary premises from March onwards,” she explains, adding: “We saw at once that there was a strong demand for micro-loans here. Clearly there are a lot of people in Antwerp who are keen to set up in business but lack the resources and would-be entrepreneurs are also faced with rents and other charges that are higher here than elsewhere in Flanders.”
Charleroi agency manager Anna Tinebra said: “I started in the job in April this year. My first task was to find suitable premises. The agency opened its doors in mid-July but before that I used to meet people in stations, shops and other public places. I did some prospecting with organisations which help companies to get up and running. Opening a proper branch in Charleroi was the obvious next step.”
microStart staff in the various branches arrange advice and support for customers before and after they are granted a loan. They can also count on assistance from volunteers, many of them being active or retired BNP Paribas employees.