Every morning at 5 am, Vilma Esther Similox stands behind her blue table-clothed table full of fruits, juice, eggs, milk and boxes of vitamins, ready to greet customers with an eager, bright smile. The 37-year-old mother of three runs her fresh juice stand in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, along with her teenage daughter. Her unique creations of milkshakes and vitamin-enhanced juices help to pay for rent, household expenses and school fees for her children.
Four years ago, Vilma wasn’t smiling so brightly. Her husband worked in construction in the city, coming home only on the weekends, bringing a small salary to provide for Vilma and the children. His salary was not enough, though, and the couple struggled to afford their rent of a small house. A friend of hers ran a juice stand in another part of the town and encouraged Vilma to start her own juicing business.
Despite her eagerness to be a business owner, Vilma didn’t have the capital to start her own juice stand, and she had never taken out a loan before. She came across a flyer from FINCA detailing the opportunity to take out small, group loans through a Village Bank. After joining the Flor Del Durazno (Peach Blossom) Village Bank with some neighborhood friends, she was able to purchase a small table and a juice presser with her first loan.
Day after day, Vilma would set up her stand outside her house, working until noon juicing for her customers. As her business grew, she took out additional FINCA loans, and was able to upgrade to a larger table. Most recently, she was able to acquire a bigger juicer and an extractor with a 3,000 quetzal ($380) loan. She began buying chicken and duck eggs from a neighbor and milk from a neighbor who brings the cow directly to her house. Vilma knew she can cut her costs if she had chickens and cows in her home to provide fresh ingredients daily, but her landlord doesn’t allow her to keep livestock at home.
Unlike other juicers in the neighborhood, Vilma attracts customers with creative drinks. She added her version of milkshakes to her menu, serving them in a large glass with cornflakes as a topping. Her prized drinks, though, are her vitamin-enhanced juices, offering customers a chance to strengthen muscles, fight ailments or even increase vigor and vitality for the bedroom. A plain juice will cost a customer 5 quetzals ($0.65). Though the vitamins are expensive, they help to drive up Vilma’s profits, with each vitamin-enhanced juice retailing for three times as much as a plain juice.
Today, with Vilma’s delicious drink creations, she doesn’t have to worry about earning enough to pay her rent. In fact, with the growth of her business, Vilma was able to rent a larger and more comfortable house to better accommodate the family. Her next dream is to build her own house using the profits from her business, where she will be able to keep livestock at home and continue to smile brightly for her customers and her family.