Story in the School of Business
Brian Belcher '09
Finance major, Economics major
When Brian Belcher saw the economic problems facing developing countries firsthand, it changed his career path forever.
Two weeks changed the life of Brian Belcher.
Spending one week building homes for families in Tijuana, and then another studying economic conditions firsthand in El Salvador gave Belcher a whole new outlook on the world.
“The trips gave me an understanding of the realities and the most important aspect of life,” recalls the finance and economics double major. “I immediately began looking for more ways to get involved with social justice.”
So during his senior year, Belcher founded Social Innovators, an on-campus organization where social entrepreneurs gather to encourage social changes in third world countries. Through this club, Belcher created awareness about microfinance—the provision of financial services to low-income individuals. “I went through Linda Alepin’s Global Women’s Leadership Network to get Opportunity International, one of the largest microfinance institutions in the world, to speak at SCU,” says Belcher. “Microfinance really sets the bar for what can be achieved with a finance degree.”
Linda Alepin took notice of what Belcher’s vision could accomplish. “I saw in Brian a person with passion and determination to make a contribution to global society,” she explains. Alepin’s instinct urged her to introduce Belcher to the Global Fellows Program, offered through the Leavey School of Business—a five- to seven-week global work experience program with placements in the U.S. and abroad.
Belcher quickly seized this as an opportunity to utilize his finance degree “to its fullest potential.” His placement was in Guatemala, where he worked with a non-government organization called Mercado Global.
“Mercado Global presented me with an amazing opportunity to create a micro credit program for their partner artisans, something that I could not turn down,” says Belcher.
After four months, Belcher successfully developed a program teaching artisans about the benefits of credit and how to fill out loan applications. “Many of the artisans did not know how to write or read,” says Belcher. “That was an eye-opening experience for me.”
From then on, he ensured that a loan officer would sit down with every artisan to go through the application process, step-by-step. Belcher helped 10 artisans make loans during the piloting of this program. However, he quickly handed off the program to a new director, one of the locals in Guatemala. “It’s important to build the foundation,” believes Belcher, “but later transition to the natives of the country.”
With that, he returned to El Salvador for a year and a half, working on a bigger project. Alongside Sam Baker ’08, Belcher co-founded Computodos in 2010: a business that provides affordable computers with pre-installed programs (like Microsoft Word) to low-income El Salvadorans. The business took off, supplying 1,200 computers to low-income markets in its first year. Belcher did not stay long, however, as Computodos is now completely run by the locals themselves.
“The immersion trips provided through Santa Clara are something that changed my life,” says Belcher. “It definitely made me more aware globally, and it’s so important to give a stake to the people you are affecting change on.”
Click here to learn more about Computodos.
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