Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.
For Marilyn Ciprian, serving God as a businesswoman means dedicating each day—and each transaction—to the Lord. “May God bless this day and multiply things in accordance with His glory,” she writes each morning in her account book. Thus begins her search for opportunities to serve Christ as she opens her convenience store—appropriately named La Gran Comision or “The Great Commission”—in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic.
An entrepreneur with a mission
Marilyn’s first step in making disciples is consistently showing Christ’s love to her customers. Whether or not community members attend church, most of them visit her colmado on a regular basis to purchase fresh bread, meats, cooking essentials, diapers, notebooks, and even shoes. She welcomes customers with her characteristic smile, shares the testimony of God’s provision in her life, and distributes Christian literature at her own expense with each purchase. “That way I complete a job for me and a job for God,” she says.
Despite her hardworking nature, Marilyn doesn’t spend all her time behind the counter. “With my own business, I have the ability to close my shop and go into the communities and minister to people whenever I want to,” she shares. Marilyn can often be found visiting a neighbor in need or attending church activities. She also uses her colmado to reach those in difficult situations by selling essentials on credit to members of her community.
“Now I feel like I have everything”
Marilyn explains that she became a colmado owner through hard work, God’s blessing, and small business loans and training from Esperanza International, HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic. Her business began with no inventory and no dedicated space—selling prepared foods in the streets of San Pedro’s free trade zone. Over the course of eight years and 10 loan cycles from Esperanza, Marilyn grew the colmado so significantly that today several family members help her run the business. Her daily sales now total roughly $46: the amount of her initial loan from Esperanza.
As Marilyn dedicates herself and her business to the Lord, He has been faithful to bless her efforts, using Esperanza’s teachings to help her grow her bookkeeping and customer service skills and manage her funds wisely. In addition to the thriving colmado, Marilyn—who lives with three generations of her family in a small home behind her store—now owns eight homes throughout the community, which she leases to tenants.
“When I started [receiving loans from Esperanza],” Marilyn shares, “I didn’t have anything. Now I feel like I have everything.” She hopes to expand upon her successful colmado by opening several additional locations, which she dreams of passing on to her children and grandchildren.