How One Entrepreneur is Transforming His Meat Shop, and His Life

In Honduras, TechnoServe is supporting entrepreneurs like Gustavo Zelaya through Impulsa tu Empresa — a program that provides small and growing businesses with essential mentorship and business training.

 

Gustavo Zelaya and his wife, Lorena Tosta, stand in front of their food processing business.

The shop is tucked away just off of a busy road that leads to the capital city of Tegucigalpa. A large sign branded with the business name announces the sale of meat, dairy products, and more. Inside, nonperishable products are neatly displayed in rows, while a wide assortment of meat is kept in freezers that line the back wall. To an outsider, the shop looks like the epitome of success — but for Gustavo Zelaya, the shop represents years of hard work, dedication, and immense challenges.

Gustavo has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He worked for one of Honduras’ largest telecommunications companies for 16 years, but each day after work he would spend hours selling chorizo to people in his community. Eventually, he took the leap and left the company to start his own food processing business. However, despite his passion for cooking and his commitment to the business, he was not seeing any profits. “I used to be very impulsive,” Gustavo admits with a laugh. “I did not perform any financial analysis.”

Throughout Central America, small and growing businesses provide essential jobs, services, and income opportunities. However, entrepreneurs like Gustavo face many challenges when running their businesses, such as lack of access to capital and poor financial management.

Before joining the program, I was about to close my business. I had already given up. Now, I’m excited to leave the business for my kids one day.

By 2018, Gustavo had almost given up hope that his food processing business could be successful. At the lowest point, his business only brought in $400 in one month — barely enough to cover basic costs for a family of four. During this time, he was struggling to support his family and was forced to close his saleroom because of near constant extortion. “Our situation was very bad,” Gustavo recalls. “We had to move our kids to a different school that was less expensive.”

It was around this time that a friend told him about Impulsa tu Empresa — a partnership between TechnoServe and the Argidius Foundation that supports small and growing businesses through mentorship and business training. This regional entrepreneurship program works to strengthen business management skills, expand market linkages, and encourage investment in growth. Since 2012, Impulsa tu Empresa has assisted more than 2,000 businesses, increased sales on average by 33%, and created more than 1,800 new jobs.

Before joining the program, Gustavo was like many other entrepreneurs in Honduras. “People here are very entrepreneurial, but they want to see the fruits of their labor overnight,” he says. “They don’t realize that it takes time to build a successful business.”

Gustavo sells an assortment of meat and dairy products from his saleroom outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Through the program, Gustavo learned important business skills, such advertising and cost analysis. When his business advisor said he should focus on advertising, he was hesitant at first. However, one of his biggest challenges has always been competition from other businesses, so advertising seemed like a good way to set his business apart. After investing in social media and other forms of advertising, he saw a 65% increase in sales. Between 2018 and 2019, Gustavo increased his sales by over $1,500.

With the new profits from his business, he has been able to make improvements to his saleroom. “I now have the money to invest in painting the saleroom and buying furniture,” Gustavo says. “I’m proud to be an example for other entrepreneurs. The most important thing is to follow the [program] recommendations.”

People [in Honduras] are very entrepreneurial, but they want to see the fruits of their labor overnight. They don’t realize that it takes time to build a successful business.

The newfound success of his business has impacted every facet of his life. “After school, my kids like to help around the shop now,” Gustavo continues, beaming every time he mentions his children, ages 10 and 12. Now that he no longer has to worry about affording their tuition, he has been able to focus on growing his business. “One of my goals is to sell at the supermarkets. Based on the recommendation of my advisor, I’m in the process of getting the necessary health certificates right now.”

In Honduras, where entrepreneurs face significant challenges, the Impulsa tu Empresa program is equipping people with the skills they need to run successful businesses — and transform their lives in the process. “Before joining the program, I was about to close my business. I had already given up,” Gustavo reflects. “Now, I’m excited to leave the business for my kids one day.”