Delivered by FedEx.
In 1993, I was an organic farmer in the Guatemalan highlands. A group of struggling farmers approached me, asking how they could grow vegetables on their steep land. We concluded their land was better suited for forestry, and we formed an alliance to plant, process and market the wood. This success proved to me that communities living in extreme poverty can transform themselves by having a dream, imagination, working hard, and realizing that dream through access and relationships to mentors, allies, markets, and opportunities. Today, entrepreneurs around the world have an unprecedented ability to make global connections in order to share and facilitate their dreams.
After that original alliance thrived, my dream expanded and I wanted to give opportunities to more Guatemalans. This dream became a business called Wakami World, which distributes the beautiful bracelets and crafts created by 1,000 craftswomen in rural Guatemala to markets around the world. In doing so we generate local sources of income, value ancestral Guatemalan cultures, and incorporate new people into prosperity chains. Our success comes from five principles that I believe are fundamental to the success of any small business:
Dream and do what you love. In 2006, I spent a month being mentored by Kathy Bushkin Calvin, COO of the United Nations Foundation, through Vital Voices, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women around the globe. This experience proved to be an amazing gateway, allowing me to meet accomplished women I have read about in magazines and admired. They made me realize that success results from identifying what you love and going after it. Before you can succeed, you must dream.
A dream requires a team. I had a clear understanding of my dream, but in order to reach my goals and grow my business I needed to surround myself with capable people who had a business sense about designing, marketing and accounting. This depends on finding, cultivating, and inspiring passionate people who are invested in your dream. For example, a woman named Queta Rodriguez, who had run a successful school in Guatemala, came to my small office one day after hearing of the work we were doing and said: “I want to join, I want to be able to be in a place where I can be part of the transformation of the world, I want to meet communities, I want to meet rural women.” She is now my partner and her management skills are a key reason for Wakami World’s success. Besides Queta, 18 other people are part of the team.
Communicate what your business stands for. Our products are not simply ornaments –they share stories of our Mayan heritage and our vision that the world can live in peace. In my experience, a successful business must have a vision. When I met with Michael Ducker, president of FedEx Express International, about my shipping needs, I was struck by how he first talked about the values of his company – “people, service, profits,” in that order. I think a business can only succeed when you understand your core values and communicate them with everyone.
Seek connections and spread your dream around the world. The world truly is growing smaller every day. Today, even craftswomen in a remote Guatemalan village, who once could only barter their wares at the local market, now do business with fashionable shops in the United States. Presently, we export products to 20 stores in the U.S. and are setting up an online store that will allow us to greatly expand our operations and reach new global markets. Our business expansion was made possible thanks to the Internet and the logistics support provided by FedEx. FedEx helped us to connect dreams, countries, and people – and this type of connection is open to any small business, anywhere in the world, that has a dream and desire to make it happen.
Believe you have the power to transform your life. I have seen craftswomen in Guatemala completely change the way they view themselves -- from people with no hope to successful entrepreneurs with a new vision of opportunity. The change did not come easily, but it’s shown me that anyone has the power to transform their life no matter what obstacles they face. I like to talk in terms of dreams because, to me, this is not just a mystical, abstract concept, but a potent force that can crystallize the mission of a business and keep you and those around you focused on a path to success.
Maria Pacheco is the founder of Wakami World, a Fulbright scholar with a masters degree in agriculture, and a 2006 mentee with the Vital Voices - an organization that builds leadership and mentoring skills for women around the world. This is the second in a series of articles from Vital Voices entrepreneurs sharing their insights and tips for building a successful small business.
American Express OPEN and FedEx have teamed up to provide discounts and a comprehensive resource for shipping, office products and print services. To learn more visit http://www.fedex.com/opensavings.
OPEN Savings®: Payment must be made with an American Express® Business Card at the time of purchase; savings will be credited to your account. Other restrictions and limitations may apply. Subject to offer terms and conditions located at opensavings.com. Merchant participation and offers are subject to change without notice.