Katarzyna Strzelinska is 24 and lives in a working-class district in Lodz, the traditional textile
center of Poland. Many factories have closed, leaving many people unemployed, especially
women skilled in sewing. During her school days Katarzyna used to work alongside her
mother as a quality controller in a company which made tights. Later she discovered that it
was possible to make tights at home out of rejects from Western European factories.
In April 1995 Katarzyna set up her own company with 500z1 (US$180) as capital. With this
money she bought reject goods to rework. Her mother, grandmother, and aunt all helped with
the work. "I had no chance of getting a loan from a bank," said Katarzyna. "From their point
of view, I had nothing to guarantee any loans with. We worked day and night, but we had no
chance of any further money to invest in the business for future growth. I found out about
Fundusz Mikro from a girlfriend, who runs a small shop and had got a loan from them. I
decided to try for one too."
With her first loan of 2,000z1 (US$700) she bought raw materials and a secondhand overlock
machine to make tights. "My production increased by a factor of two or three," says
Katarzyna. "We produced cheap nylon tights and more expensive ones with lycra and satin. I
started to sell to a couple of shops, as well as market stalls. The loan gave me peace of mind,
because even if someone had lent me a large sum of money, I would have had to give it all
back in one payment. The monthly installments let me plan for my future bills and stocks. I
feel so much more secure."