Friendship Bridge client for 17 years.
Santa Lucía Utatlán translates to “place where bamboo abounds" in the Nahuatl language. Paradoxically, however, these days, this plant is far from abundant in this municipality, located in the department of Sololá in the southwestern region of Guatemala.
53-year-old Juana Matilde lives in a rural community of this municipality. Her life has been difficult since her childhood. She grew up in a large family as the eldest of nine siblings. Although Juana loved going to school, her father could only afford supporting her formal education for 1.5 years. She regrets not having been able to continue studying. Being the oldest child meant Juana had to support the family with income to ensure that her younger siblings could eat. Before age ten, Juana, along with her younger siblings, would help her father with his agricultural activities. Later on, she began working as a maid in different homes in her community, and also picked up additional work washing baby diapers. Juana, thankful for the fixed income, carried out these jobs for about 12 years.
At the age of 23, Juana Matilde decided to get married. Her husband was a tailor and made clothes - pants, shirts, and other items. Juana Matilde, determined to build a good future for her family, began working with her husband in his business. She was responsible for counting and packing the products. They both would travel to four different locations nearby to sell their products. Years went by, and Juana Matilde, then a mother of five and a co-owner of a business that was prospering, realized it was time to hire employees; they solicited the support of 10 people from their community.
Juana Matilde and her husband often would allow customers to receive products as long as they would make payments in installments in the near future. However, this perceived leniency eventually proved problematic, as more and more of their customers began to default on their payments. Juana remembers that time as one of the more difficult periods of their business; they were losing capital and therefore were unable to invest in the growth of their business, not to mention break even.
17 years ago, Juana Matilde joined Friendship Bridge, and her first loan got her business back on track, enabling her to develop and market her products better, as well. Over time, these loans have helped the family keep the business afloat. In addition, being part of Friendship Bridge has provided Juana Matilde with the sense of empowerment to make her own decisions.
Three years ago, Juana Matilde learned that, in addition to the general monthly trainings which Friendship Bridge provided, the organization also offered specialized trainings for artisans via a separate program, now known as Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. She was very excited, yet at the same time a bit nervous at first; after all, she had very little knowledge about the artisan market. Still, she was eager to learn, and to this day, she feels very proud of herself for having made the decision to join.
After becoming involved with Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, Juana Matilde felt ready to start her own artisan business venture. Through the program, she has been able to develop her creativity and design different samples. Today she sells nine different products in the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® online store.
Juana Matilde's motivation to persevere was directly related to her desire - and need - to provide for her family. She wanted to give her children better opportunities than those that she had. At times she lacked confidence in her abilities, but through the trainings and support, she began to realize all that she was capable of. The trainings which Juana deems most beneficial to her include those on the following topics: creativity and design, budget, investment, and managing debt.
Currently, Juana Matilde and her husband serve two different markets: she sells handicrafts such as centerpieces, pot holders, decorations, and backpacks, among others; her husband is still making clothes as well as a newer product in his range, baby wrap carriers. Their family is involved in the business; occasionally, however, they hire other artisans when they have large orders and need additional assistance.
Juana Matilde is thankful to Friendship Bridge for both the loans she has received as well as the benefits she has reaped from the Plus Programs. In addition, she feels fortunate to be able to receive visits from nurses from the Health for Life program and to be able to take care of herself.
Juana has four daughters and one son.
Juana does not have employees currently.