María Pacheco has always dreamt of a world that was green, with many trees and birds nesting and singing on them; with butterflies and frogs jumping from one twig to another; a world of peace and prosperity for everyone; a world with no poverty, a world in peace.
But how could she make her dream world become reality, especially in Guatemala, a country hit by war?
She shared her dream world with a friend that came from the land of war. He loved it because he also had trees as part of his dream. However, in his dream he also wanted the trees to heat homes, to shelter the birds and rabbits and to hold water in the soil so springs and river would be alive. They worked together and taught communities how to find harmony with their land through its natural resources.
Best part of all, by planting and caring for the Earth, María’s new friends were able to sell the wood and other things to make money to feed their families.
María was happy and kept dreaming of a better world:
“We dream of a world in which all communities have houses
And all houses have a window
That from all windows a garden may be seen
And that in all gardens there is a ball
That all balls belong to boys and girls who go to school
And that all schools have PTAs of parents that work
That all those who work may reach the markets
And that it is markets that multiply houses with windows
So that the sky may be blue and the sun bright for everyone”
That is the dream. But what is the reality of the world?
- Globally, 1.2 billion people live in poverty.
- In Guatemala, 60% live in poverty.
Though these numbers are astounding, you need to tune into the lives of an impoverished family to understand what they truly mean.
In 2002, there was a famine declared in Guatemala, and María was invited to a village. While walking there, a woman, Doña Santa, invited her into her home. There was a 6-year old child lying on a mat on the floor. Maria was heartbroken and she told Doña Santa, “If you don’t take this child to the doctor he will die.”
Doña Santa said, “María, I have 5 dollars in my pocket. With those, I can try to take this child to the hospital and save him or feed the other 7 children for the rest of the month.”
Hardly able to speak María asked her, “What do you really need, how can we help you?” What Doña Santa said turned everyone around, “María, if you can sell what we produce, the rest we can do.”
“But how do I find the market? How do I look for investors? How should I start?” wondered María. María’s questions were asked when she was introduced to Agora Partnerships.
“Agora strengthened my abilities to pitch to investors by teaching me how to structure ideas, prioritize business objectives and focus on return,” said María.
With the support of Agora Partnerships, María was able to increase the impact of her company, Wakami, and work towards the dreams she had envisioned.
Wakami is a system that connect rural communities, especially women, with global markets, generating income and transforming cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity!
Wakami consists of two organizations that work hand in hand:
- An NGO that gives professional training to rural groups of women
- A social business that designs and exports products for the global market, handmade by those women
When Wakami first started, they sold any product made by the communities, but this was an inefficient system. The challenge was to finding a product line that had a growing market demand worldwide and could use the ancestral techniques of the communities. That is why Wakami chose the handmade fashion accessories market.
These handmade fashion accessories have created jobs and income for 486 producers, 95% of which are women, in a men-dominated Guatemalan society.
Before being part of the Wakami system, many of the producers would work on coffee fields, with small and unpredictable gains. Through Wakami, their income is four times higher on average, consistent, and empowers the producers to become active members of the society.
So now this is how the system works:
Through the Inclusive-Business Methodology, groups of women with life-changing dreams are transformed into formal businesses through training by Wakami’s NGO. Then, the social business becomes their first client and products are exported across the world. Once sales happen and the women have income, Wakami implements the Smart-Investment Methodology, where, with their income, their first dreams come true: feeding and educating their children.
With more sales the social business can grow and become the market the force that drives social change.
The income generated with Wakami is transforming the lives of entire families in Guatemala, investing in children’s nutrition, education, and in products that make houses safer.
After eleven years of business these are Wakami’s results:
- Creation of a transferable system that can be transmitted to other countries with communities facing similar challenges;
- Exporting products to over 20 countries with sales for over 1 million dollars for the last 3 years;
- Inspiring the new Corporate Social Responsibility model for three, billion-dollar Guatemalan companies;
- Incubating 16 rural businesses benefitting over 2,500 people;
- Contributing to 140% higher school attendance than the Guatemalan national average for Wakami children; and,
- Providing for a 57% improvement of nutritional status for Wakami children.
Most of all, Wakami is DISRUPTING cycles of poverty and creating cycles of prosperity.
“Agora helped me share my dream and built a business than allow more dreams come true,” said María Pacheco
Wakami thanks Agora Partnerships for helping them become a fashion-industry DISRUPTOR!