Guatemalan Woman Finds Self-Reliance Through Fruit Juice Business

Mónica’s path to independence began three years ago when she joined an association of women from the San Lucas Tolimán region, who learned practical skills like weaving in an effort to find income opportunities. Mónica’s husband had abandoned the family, leaving her in debt and with few opportunities for employment.

“I have always managed to provide enough food for my children, but the same cannot be said for me,” Mónica recalls. “Many times, I had to sacrifice so that my children could eat.”

Because the women had access to an ample supply of fresh fruit, they decided to capitalize on a skill they all shared: cooking. They formed a business called Kask’i and began producing fruit juices in one of their homes using a donated blender.

The women faced many challenges as they tried to expand their business. Their limited knowledge of marketing, distribution and sales prevented them from maximizing profits, and some women were forced to abandon the business altogether when their husbands forbade them from working.

Last year, the group began working with TechnoServe through a program focusing on women-owned businesses. TechnoServe business advisor Michelle Palacios has helped train the women in basic business skills such as marketing and management. Michelle, in turn, is receiving training on promoting gender equality, which will help her respond to the sensitivities and needs of the rural women.

The 34 women of Kask’i have received assistance meeting the quality standards needed to reach new markets. They also have learned to coordinate more effectively, talking through disagreements and putting the most divisive issues to a vote. As a result of these improvements, the company’s sales have increased by 60 percent since it began working with TechnoServe.

“TechnoServe has helped us to improve the business,” Mónica says. “Really, they have helped it to become a business. Before, we produced something, but we didn’t know how to sell it. Now we produce a higher quality product and we sell for a better price.”

The added income has helped Mónica provide her children with better food, clothes and an education without borrowing money or sacrificing her own well-being. Mónica used to rely on prayer and medicinal herbs when she was sick. Now she is much healthier and has recovered from the detrimental effects of anemia.

Mónica’s dream is to buy a house for her family. Above all, she wants her children to have successful futures and be able to support themselves. Meanwhile, Mónica is working hard to make Kask’i one of the largest businesses in the region and a respected producer of healthy, natural products.

“Success means overcoming the challenges of being born a poor, indigenous woman,” Mónica says, “and becoming a businesswoman.”