Situated among valleys and cascading mountains, Chichicastenango is a town that stands apart in Guatemala. It is steeped in traditional Mayan culture and famous for its market that features locally made Guatemalan fabrics.
In 2007, Lucia Margarita Pacajoj Ticum, a mother of three, noticed an increasing number of tourists flocking to the Chichicastenango market in search of authentic and traditional Guatemalan products. With an ability to sew, Lucia decided it was time to build a store of her own and get into the souvenir business.
For 2 Quetzales a day (about 27 cents), Lucia was able to rent a tiny space in the market and set out a small wooden table display her products. Her small table was filled with her hand-made dolls, pouches, magnets and notebooks. Little by little, money started to come in. But it was never enough to support her family.
Luckily, a FINCA loan officer was making the rounds through the market promoting FINCA’s microfinance loans to the market vendors. After speaking with the loan officer, Lucia concluded this may be her one chance to really make something of her business.
With her first FINCA loan of 15,000 Quetzales (about $2,044), Lucia purchased materials in bulk to grow her product line. Pretty soon Lucia was able to introduce new products to the throngs of customers meandering the twice-weekly market. Being the smart businesswoman she is, Lucia added backpacks, pants and quilts to her stand, all of which were higher profit items and differentiated from her competitors’ product lines.
Because of a FINCA loan, I was able to grow my business from a small table to a large display stand.
To support her growing market stall, Lucia hired two workers to produce large quilts and colorful backpacks. She could even afford to purchase two sewing machines – one for each of her employees.
As a spouse and a mother, Lucia decided to use the business income for her family’s wellbeing. She began by cementing the dirt floor in their home. Then she added electricity and running water, both a first for their family.
“Now we have enough clothes to wear, my children have shoes and we eat much better,” recounted Lucia.
But that’s not all. Lucia is using the growing profits to make an investment in her children’s future. Before Lucia expanded her market stall using FINCA loans, she couldn’t afford to pay the transport costs for her children to get to school and it was much too far to walk. Now, thanks to a reliable source of business income, Lucia gladly pays the fees for her children to travel to and from school.
I want my children to attend university and get good job opportunities. Completing just elementary school is considered a success where we live. I only got to 6th grade and my husband didn’t even go to school.