On any given day, Rosa Us Zacarias can be found standing in the corner of her bustling little flour mill. Consisting of just one room, the mill was constructed with cinder block on two sides, timber on the other two, and a single sheet of aluminum running overhead. It is seldom quiet.
Rosa spent the better part of her life in Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala sewing and mending clothes by candlelight. But at the age of 51 she had grown bored of it. Most of all, sewing was never enough to better her family’s living situation. Their life was overshadowed by a dirt floor home and the noticeable absence of electricity and running water.
Defying the odds that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Rosa was ready for a late-life career move.
“Years ago, my late husband ran a flour mill in another area. Living here, I noticed families had to travel far to find a mill, so I thought it’d be a good business,” Rosa recalled.
There was only one problem: grinding machines used in flour mills are quite expensive when you’re surviving on limited income.
Rosa had heard about FINCA and applied for a microfinance loan. Shortly thereafter, Rosa paired her initial loan of $675 with a small savings to purchase her very first machine. And she hasn’t looked back.
Three times a day – about an hour before each mealtime – a long line of customers forms at Rosa’s mill. The line extends out the door, around the corner, and down the dusty road. Women, men and children can be found eagerly waiting. Each carries a large sack of raw corn that will be turned into flour for making tortillas, a local delicacy.
As customers empty the contents of their sacks into the metal funnel, a cacophony of sound thunders from the machine. To keep up with the constant demand, Rosa added a second machine, again using a FINCA loan. Both machines are typically in full use, and Rosa employs the help of her two sons to keep things running.
“A FINCA loan is what enabled me to start this business,” said Rosa. “And this business is our main support.”
In the nine years since Rosa first opened the doors to her flour mill, so much has changed.
She bought her home and the land beneath it. Then, Rosa installed electricity to operate the grinding machines for the mill right on her property. After that, she added running water – a real necessity to keep the machines from clogging. And finally, Rosa cemented the dirt floor and added two additional rooms – doubling the size of her family’s home. Today, you’ll even find a refrigerator and a TV inside.
“Soon I plan to buy a microwave,” Rosa commented with a look of cheerful pride. Her face then became quite serious.
Without this business, I would have nothing.