Written by: Adrienne Chaille
This last month we launched the second round of USAID Farmer-to-Farmer in Lima, Peru with Thunderbird for Good, the Goldman Sachs Foundation 10,000 Women Program and Universidad del Pacífico. While there is funding for 4 volunteers, we are just 2 currently, myself, a previous Farmer-to-Farmer business consultant returning to complete the second cycle, and Ankush Brahamamar, an architect by training and a recent graduate from the Thunderbird Masters in Business Administration program. In coordination with our team we threw a kick-off event to orient and celebrate the selected entrepreneurs, all graduates from one of the 12 cohorts of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program in Peru.
The women entrepreneurs with whom we are working range businesses producing granolas to teas to fruit liqueurs; producers of alpaca garments and fabricants of cotton shirts and jewelry designers – each of them related to textiles in some form true to the charge of the farmer-to-farmer grant. Our charge: to analyze their current needs and identify the strengths and weaknesses that may catapult them towards the next level in their businesses through increased marketing efforts, trainings all with the final goal of accessing new markets.
A Snapshot: Lupita
One women, Guadalupe Marrufo Bazan, or Lupita, hails from San Juan de Lurigancho, a region on the outskirts of Lima, Peru that is known for its poverty and high crime rates. With three small children, Lupita was forced to provide for her entire family when her husband fell ill and could no longer work for a period. She began a small business selling jewelry and clothing to her neighbors with imported products from Panama called GM Pretty Peru. Lupita heard about Proyect SALTA, the project that Thunderbird supports in Peru providing one-day business training modules to women entrepreneurs in underserved areas using an innovative soap opera model that taps into the local culture. Lupita, who is always looking for new opportunities in the community received this training from Programa SALTA and was also selected to receive mentoring from an MBA candidate from Thunderbird School of Global Management, Marcela Cubas. This experience opened her eyes to the possibilities of the market, “in my city and in the world.” Marcela assisted her in reorganizing her finances, articulating her goals and tapping into to more community resources. Through SALTA, Lupita was introduced to the Goldman Sachs Foundation 10,000 Women Peru program and promptly applied.
Over the course of the four and a half month training, Lupita created a business plan launching her new products made from recycled bulls horn (cuerno de toro), as well as other ecological products from the country. She benefited from the networking opportunities within the program, the wrap-around training services and ultimately was selected to participate in the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program working with myself. Lupita and I are in the process of completely renovating her business, creating a new brand (Eco Art Peru) complete with a new logo, marketing materials and product lines. She is actively seeking new markets internationally as well as strategic points of sale throughout the local market, including art galleries and ecological gift stores that target foreign tourists.
One Woman at a Time
Through this immense growth as an entrepreneur Lupita has also launched a social project completely independent of her business – Mujeres Exitosas Ensenando Mujeres (MEEM), in English, Successful Women Teaching Women, that involves local businesswomen in human giving chain. The idea is founded in that having received services of any kind such as trainings like SALTA and 10,000 Women each woman has a responsibility to share with others around her and involve them in these services. The numbers speak for themselves: Lupita began with reaching out to one woman in the community who she felt could benefit from the programs and as a requirement to assist asked them to reach out to 1 more. In this fashion MEEM has grown to over 100 members, each inviting one more entrepreneur after receiving assistance. “It is our responsibility to reach out to at least one other woman so they may experience the benefits of the services in the community,” says Lupita. The participants are from all backgrounds and businesses, from the corner grocery store to a seamstress to an artisan using traditional weaving methods. Various neighborhoods have been affected throughout the city, and Lupita is beginning to look for some assistance because she cannot communicate with all the women that she has reached. These women attend Program SALTA and several have now graduated from the 10,000 Women business education program. She is now conducting multiple sessions of trainings using only a small banner, an inspirational video that she found online and a small survey that she has developed to capture data. Like her new business, Eco Art Peru, Lupita wants to take MEEM to the next level. Her goal is to formalize it as a nonprofit, creating a system nationally with local leaders at the head of the neighborhood organizations and organizing monthly meetings between the participants providing trainings and opportunities for growth. SALTA and 10,000 Women have an unspoken champion in the community, proving that building community begins one woman at a time.