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“Without challenges, there’s no way to get what we want”

Irma Yolanda Arana has always lived in El Gallito district, zone 3 of Guatemala City. She has a store there, and to this date, she still remembers what encouraged her to join the Nurturing the Future project that had been implemented in that sector. “…when I started my business, I would mix my expense money with the income made from the store, and from there I would take what I needed for my daily expenses. It was basically a mess”.

However, being able to change her mindset and her side as a merchant was something that marked a before and after in her life. “I am a professional hairdresser. As women, we don’t think that we can get to do a lot of things, but I worked hard to learn, so that I could create opportunities for myself and strengthen my abilities and knowledge”. 

Although in the beginning her family did not expect much from her work, Yolanda always believed that with the appropriate resources, they could have better life conditions, even during critical times like the pandemic. 

During the pandemic, 3 colleagues closed their stores, but by that time, the Nurturing the Future project had already taught us how to save, how to keep an inventory, to manage our earnings, and how to buy to get better prices; and I value that knowledge, because it allowed me to get through the pandemic”.

Many women were supported with products from the project back then, but Irma only asked for one thing: “I asked for a pair of scissors… and I used them to start doing hairstyling. So, I did not close my store at that time because they helped me when I needed it the most. I still have my scissors and I continue to work with them”. 

Irma thinks of herself as a micro-entrepreneur, and her perception of working has changed. Today, her decisions revolve around her family, and her personal and economic activities. “Ever since I joined the Nurturing the Future project, doors started opening for me because I implemented methods to manage my business money and personal expenses, making everything to increase for me. My family was also motivated by my accomplishments, so much that my daughter and son partnered up and they are about to establish a branch for their own business”. 

Just like Irma, many women in zone 3 found opportunities for business during the pandemic. One of those women was Patricia Chacón. “The store was established by my mother 55 years ago, and my sister and I inherited it. During the pandemic, I was left alone with the store, and since then I have tried to manage it and supply for it”.

Even if she has been a businesswoman her entire life, Patricia recognizes the importance of joining the Nurturing the Future project. “One of the things that I learned, despite all the years I have with my business, was how to manage it, how to do the inventory, calculate the costs and the profit margin… you have to make a fair profit”. 

Despite her short time in the project, Patricia has applied the management knowledge she learned to grow and expand her business, and she keeps moving forward. “The business must keep growing. Before, we only had sodas, but now we also offer yogurt, ham, sausages, chicken, and ice cream. I also let my daughter-in-law join me, and she helps with the ice cream”.

Just like Irma and Patricia, many women in zone 3 have learnt that deciding to start a business carries risks and hard work, but this process has also given them a great satisfaction, income and wellbeing for themselves and their families.