Entrepreneur: María Pacheco
HQ: Guatemala City
Industry: Artisanal Products
Number of Employees: 10 - 50
GIIRS Rating: coming soon
Guatemala is a country plagued by violence of many kinds, but domestic violence affects women and children there in a particularly acute way. Indeed, recent data suggests as few as 17% of women in the country report not experiencing abuse at some point in time. María Pacheco and her colleagues, Queta Rodríguez and Ligia Chinchilla, believe a key way to fight regional violence — and poverty — is to give individuals, especially women, access to income. Kiej de los Bosques trains women to be artisans and then links them to markets to sell their crafts under the Wakami brand. In the midst of this process, Kiej works to create a sense of community among the women and improve the quality of available health and education resources. Originally conceived as a nonprofit, Kiej has found a way to use market forces (demand for beautiful jewelry with a story behind it) to fuel an innovative anti-poverty model. Kiej’s inclusive approach to addressing social change is empowering for the women in Guatemala and inspiring to us at Agora.
Kiej facilitates the design, development, and distribution of products internationally, mainly under the Wakami brand. The Wakami line includes jewelry and crafts produced by rural Guatemalan women; Kiej ensures the women’s business prospects are properly incubated and their potential customers strategically pursued. Currently, they sell within Guatemala and export to Mexico, Panama, the US, the Dominican Republic, Spain, England, Ireland, and Norway.
Because lives change when individuals can earn income. María Pacheco founded Kiej with a desire to grow local business opportunities and prove that collective approaches to business challenges can overcome what otherwise thwarts economic activity. Meeting significant export demand implies employing more individuals, at salaries above a minimum wage. Kiej emphasizes creating jobs for women with the intended effect of channeling increased financial resources toward the needs of the family (nutrition, education, healthcare, savings).
Kiej de los Bosques was founded with the goal of creating market opportunities for individuals who otherwise lacked options for income. Toward this goal, they track:
Kiej is pursuing additional regional contracts and exploring broader geographic expansion (Asia and South America) for the Wakami brand. They’re also working on systematizing their exclusive import/export model. All the while, the firm remains intent on developing more relationships with regional providers.