Graeme Thompson l Palladium - Aug 21 2020
Palladium and Walmart Guatemala Build Confidence and Capacity in Women-Led Businesses

Jennifer Medina, Owner of Cintora Textiles

Palladium’s Creating Economic Opportunities Project formed an alliance with Walmart Guatemala this week (the “Value Chain Program”) to help strengthen and grow up to 40 small businesses, most led by women.

In the past two years, Palladium has worked with more than 525 small businesses to access financing, increase investment and production, and generate employment in areas historically hard-hit by migration, and more recently, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Walmart Guatemala’s corporate social responsibility programs have assisted more than 115 small businesses in improving their production and operational processes.

Through this partnership, Palladium and Walmart are joining forces to leverage these experiences to accelerate small business growth and help local economies recover.

"We value this alliance with Walmart as part of a public-private partnership strategy for Guatemala to build a more prosperous future," explains Melani Schultz, Chief of Party for the USAID-funded Creating Economic Opportunities Project.

“For Walmart Central America it is of vital importance to support and strengthen our value chain,” adds Flavio Cotini, director of Walmart Mexico and Central America, “especially the local small and medium-sized business that provide for us the varied products that have special value for our customers.”

A Successful Pilot Program

Palladium and Walmart have been working together for the past year on a pilot for the Value Chain Program. Twenty women-led small businesses already supplying Walmart stores were chosen to participate in the pilot, which included 22 workshops and 176 hours of instruction. The workshops and webinars covered subjects such as strategic planning, financial management, legal and tax requirements for successful small businesses, online marketing, and product development. The goal was to build capacities and offer management tools to create stable, sustainable platforms for business growth.

“The project's technical assistance helped us focus,” says Elizabeth Estrada, second-generation owner and manager of Comercial MyB, a company which produces items for the bath and kitchen made from a vegetable sponge known as a ‘luffa.’ “It was very important for me to get my company in administrative order.”

Since 1990, Comercial MyB has worked with a dozen families on Guatemala’s hot South Coast where the luffa plant grows, and the principal product has always been a simple bath sponge. Estrada recounts how her business grew in fits and starts, responding mostly to daily emergencies rather than long-term plans to produce and sell more products.

“Some of these decisions were not always for the best,” she recalls.

Once in the Program, Comercial MyB was assessed, and recommendations were made to improve operations and develop a vision for a better future. Estrada received support to register her business as a limited company. With help from design and marketing experts, she created a new brand – Espiritu Vegetal – which evokes the organic nature of her products, geared for a new generation of buyers interested in environmentally responsible goods.

Once freed from day-to-day management, Estrada was able to turn her attention to the development of innovative new items made from the luffa: an exfoliant for the feet; hand soap made with luffa extracts and essential oils; a sachet for aromatic herbs for closets and drawers; insoles for shoes; and a vegetable steamer for pots.

“After 30 years in the market, the Value Chain Program has given me the confidence to be able to create new products and manage my business with more confidence,” she says.

Jennifer Medina, another participant in the program, owns Cintora Textiles, which works mostly with urban women to produce a range of products for the home, including cushions and furniture covers, and cleaning cloths for the laundry room and kitchen.

“The program with Walmart and USAID has provided support for over a year that has really changed the vision we have as a company,” she says. “The new item we developed is the line of aprons, especially printed ones. They were a hit and today are still one of our products buyers like most.”

When the COVID-19 crisis began, Medina identified a growing demand for facemasks and quickly adapted Cintora Textile’s fabrics and designs.
Now they produce facemasks, protective gowns, and booties to cover shoes, all of which can be purchased at Walmart.

After 15 months of building confidence in new abilities and applying new management tools to their small businesses, 20 companies have increased sales by USD 810,000 over the previous year and hired 38 new employees. They have also invested USD 275,000 to improve their operations.

The program is expanding this year to include another 18 businesses – 11 led by women – with growth potential to increase sales and generate employment, creating more sustainable economic opportunities for Guatemala and its small business owners.

The Creating Economic Opportunities project is funded by USAID and implemented by Palladium. Contact to learn more.