About a kilometer down Kalalgoda Road, Pannipitiya, a hunger-inducing aroma circles the area and arouses the curiosity of anybody near, to eagerly find wherever the food is being cooked. With a surprisingly large following mainly attracted through word-of-mouth, Sominra Caterers, the birthplace of the aforementioned aroma, is on an unmistakable path to growth, with increasing numbers of orders on a daily basis.
The day we visited Sominra Caterers was a hectic day for everyone there, as they were busy arranging for a party that very afternoon. Amidst the restlessness, Kamal Deshapriya was able to talk to us about his business.
Around 7-8 years ago, I worked for a catering service, where I realized that I had no future growth potential if I continued to work there. I spoke to my wife about starting our own catering service, but it is very unrealistic to find anyone who’d come forward to help small people like us. When we inquired about obtaining business loans from banks, we were not able to provide them what they ask for, and it was around this time that my wife heard about HNB FINANCE’s ‘Diriya’ microfinance scheme.
Thushari Piyopol, the beloved wife of Kamal Deshapriya, was the first to make her husband’s idea of starting a business into a reality. Having been with us since the beginning of their business, she is able to share their story.
I have heard before that HNB FINANCE lends to small businesses. I went to HNB FINANCE in 2014 and told them the idea of our business, for which a Rs.60,000 loan was requested. The Officers came to our house and approved a loan of Rs.40,000. When the business started we did not even have our own tray. We purchased the essentials for the catering business using the money received through the loan, and also borrowed pots and pans from acquaintances.
At first, no one knew about our catering service so I took orders through my husband and my acquaintances.
I took the first loan and paid it off quickly and took the second loan of Rs.100,000. We were able to move forward very quickly because every loan we took was invested in the business. We started to obtain bigger loans worth Rs.150,000, Rs.300,000 and so on, also accelerating our business at the same time.
The Officers of HNB FINANCE did not just give us the loan and walk away. They observed how those loans were used for business, made a note of the day-to-day expenses in the business, and kept track of the business as we understood it. They advised us on everything a business like this needs.
I still remember a story the Officer told us that day when he came to pass the loan to see how we were doing business. He said “If you continue like this, you can imagine where you will be in another five years.” What he said then, is true today. Today we are able to employ three more people. In the past, food orders were taken in hired vehicles. Today we have our own lorry for that work which was also leased from HNB FINANCE. By now we have a loan of Rs.800,000.
What I am saying everywhere is that HNB FINANCE is the best place to work with, as they will always show the right way to new entrepreneurs like us.
Sominra Catering Service