Written by: Adrienne Chaille
In Peru, the Goldman Sachs Foundation’s 10,000 Women program is funded through a partnership between Goldman Sachs, The Multilateral Investment fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Mi Banco. Globally Goldman Sachs is currently implementing a five-year global initiative “to provide a business and management education to under-served female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets (www2.goldmansachs.com/citizenship).” The initiative is in twenty-two countries from Brazil to Afghanistan and has myriad local and international partners charged with its implementation. Thunderbird for Good is a partner to this projects – providing skilled business mentors to work with small enterprises involved in the 10,000 Women program.
Olinda Inga Sanchez is a graduate from the 7th cohort of 10,000 Women Peru’s business education program. She is the general manager of Manos Artesanas, a business in operation since 2008 that focuses on the quality production of handmade 100% Alpaca, organic wool and cotton products. Her most recent project is the development of garments for children aged 4 – 7 years with all-natural materials crocheted and knitted by hand. Manos Artesanas originally formed as an association of women in the city of Tarma, Junin in Peru. Tarma is nestled in an agricultural valley known for its potato cultivation and beautiful flowers and was racked by violence during the height of the Shining Path in the 1980’s in the country. The majority of the artisans who comprise the business have sewn their entire lives, since their childhood and in the decades old tradition of their ancestors. Sewing has always been a way for them to come together, relax and simultaneously support their families’ financial needs. In their words: “Sewing is a way for us to focus our creative energy and transform materials that reflect our Peruvian culture and heritage to share with the world. Using our hands in this way, we are able to invest in the education and well-being of our children and our communities.”
After graduation Olinda was posed to take her business to the next phase. Equipped with a high-caliber certificate from the renowned Universidad del Pacifico and passionate about her work and her community, Olinda sought to utilize her networks and continue the momentum she gained through the program to reach new markets. She applied and was selected to receive personalized mentoring provided through the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (FtF) grant managed through Thunderbird for Good. This program has been in place since the mid-eighties and “provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production, and marketing (http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/agriculture/farmer_to_farmer.htm).” Recipients of the FtF grant are working in partnership with local non-profits, governments and range from longer-term business consulting to short-term trainings, such as a recent project in Mongolia through Mercy Corps International that focused on teaching local farmers sausage-making strategies through the expertise of the head chef from Higgins Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The project Strengthening Women Entrepreneurship in Peru and Thunderbird for Good applied for the grant in order to supplement the support services provided for the women to address the question: what happens when you leave the classroom? It is a challenge that many business education programs face again and again and the answer, which is so often mentoring, can be a challenge in its implementation as qualified mentors tend to be unavailable or limited in their scope. In the case of the 10,000 Women Program, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer’s grant met this need.
Olinda had access to skilled labor, business networks and a small amount of capital but was unsure of the next steps. First, she and her Farmer-to-Farmer mentor created an action plan highlighting her key goals and the steps needed to reach these goals. After thorough analysis of her business plan, costs and systems, Olinda applied for the second round in an international business competition as a finalist of 30 worldwide through the BID Network (she did not receive the prize – this time). Undaunted, she plans to reapply for the next competition and seeks other methods for accessing capital.
Seeking to build out new markets, Olinda (supplemented with a small financial investment provided by the program) and Manos Artesanas was able to participate in Peru Moda 2012 with three other graduates, launching her new line of children’s clothing. In order to prepare for the event she participated in various trainings and boot camps developed by Farmer to Farmer volunteers, created a website and developed all printed materials including a catalog and business cards. Through intensive coaching on sales pitch and customer service as part of her mentoring, Olinda had heavy traffic through her stand and left with over 50 cards and did extensive follow-up which continues to this day. Through these Peru Moda, contacts she is now importing small quanties to the United States, Holland, Canada and France.
Finally, during the culminating Farmer-to-Farmer event Olinda developed collections with not one but two designers. The event, Tejiendo la Pasarela, was unprecedented celebration of food, fashion and local cooperation. Previous to the Consul General to the Ambassador to the United States in Peru Olinda spoke of her experiences before the crowd, composed and proud. As a result of her participation, Olinda is now in the process of creating a consortium with two other program participants in order to comply with large orders and invest capital in machines to compete in the market. Following the fashion show, Olinda is collaborating with Giancarlo Gallo on the development of a children’s line to be shown in Japan in the fall of the following year.
In Her Words:
I was born in the district of Huasi Huasi, Junín in Peru and when I was 7 years old I was taught how to sew. As I grew older I developed my skills because it was almost obligatory to sew in my community. When I was 11 years old my mother sent me to Lima because in my village of Huasi Huasi was invaded by the terrorist groups of el Sendero Luminoso and she was afraid that they would take me and use me as one of them. That is how I came to Lima, the big city. I gave up sewing for many years because I had to work to send my mother and brothers money and continue my studies. Taking a class in exportation and with the support of my Professor Peralta, I decided to form my own business and provide work for the people of my community, not just in Huasi Huasi, but also in other districts such as Tarma, Chanchamayo, Acobanba and the hills of Pasco. Over the years we have trained up to 120 artisans. We still don’t produce large quantities but we train women so that they may have another form of earnings. Now, with the support of 10,000 Women Peru, we participated in Peru MODA 2012, representing the work that the women do. We also were invited to compete in a BID Network business competition and the 10,000 Women Peru, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer and Thunderbird for Good Tejiendo la Pasarela event which connected us to various well-known designers in the community.
The most beautiful part of my work is the women. They don’t work just out of obligation; they sew for their art and to continue the traditions of their ancestors. I believe that our added value is that our garments are made with love. Why love? Because the women of our workshops dedicated themselves in the morning to their families, like taking care of their children, feeding their animals or working in their fields and at 3 pm they come to the workshop to sew or they simply sew in their homes with the exact models and sizes.