Learning Business Strategies

Photo of Carla keeping record of her businessCarla is 50 years old, married and with two adult daughters, they live in the community called La Argentina located about 14 km away from the city of San Carlos, the capital of Río San Juan – Nicaragua. Carla, with the support of her two daughters, decided to start a small business to sell vegetables in her own house to supply the people of her community, who usually traveled to the city of San Carlos to make these purchases, which generated extra day-to-day expenses for them.

Carla and her two daughters intended to survive with this business by implementing their (born) empirical knowledge, but they soon realized the need to improve their knowledge and skills since, due to the lack of cash, Carla decided to make loans in two microfinance companies who they charged 20 percent monthly interest (a very high charge) for low-income people. But, due to lack of basic accounting knowledge, Carla accepted the loans, even without understanding that by paying that percentage she would not see much profit in her business. Carla continued with the loan process and then she had to work only to pay the interest and it took her a long time to get out of those debts. Once having had that fatal experience and seeing that it was necessary to sell more to be able to pay the basic expenses of the house and the debt installments, Carla then decided to sell the products directly walking the streets from house to house in the City of San Carlos carrying with her 2 buckets full of their products, several months passed until one day Carla met the official of the Clean Water Program, also promoted by Self-Help International, who told her that she could attend training where many women learn new things, methodologies and skills to improve and strengthen their knowledge. Carla was interested in learning more about Self-Help International and the Women’s Empowerment Program because she believed that it would be an opportunity for her and her two daughters to learn what she really needed to improve in her business and personal life, so she visited the Self-Help International office and applied to be part of the Women’s Empowerment Program along with her two daughters. She was assisted by the Program Officer Yolanda Fletes who immediately added her to one of the scheduled trainings, but not before Yolanda got to know more about Carla and her daughters to see in what specific way Self-Help International could help them.

They attended several training sessions and followed the recommendations of the officer, starting to work and implement what they learned, seeing a change, they learned many new things such as: keeping track of their products’ inventory, control of their real expenses incurred by the business even including the transportation and food expenses that Carla incurs when she goes out to sell her products to other places such as the City of San Carlos, as well as knowing her total income and profits, if any.

All this was something new for Carla and her daughters since they did not have any type of physical record, they only had what they could retain in their memories and according to them they were winning, but by doing an exercise applying the tools already learned through the trainings they realized that they worked hard and there were not many positive changes in their pocket or personal life.

Noticing the difference, Carla and her daughters were more encouraged to continue working until they reached the point where they now not only have a business selling vegetables and other products in their house, but they are also in two more places, dividing the merchandise among them in order to achieve coverage of more clients, areas and in addition to growing on their own, although for the moment the business is on a smaller scale they know that with effort and work they will be able to have a business stronger and bigger. Even so, they know that they still have a lot to learn and implement, but they will learn all this in the way they work and strengthen their knowledge and skills.Photo of Carla's products

The way in which they divided was as follows: Carla’s eldest daughter moved to another community called La Culebra, where she run part of the business applying everything she has learned; Carla’s youngest daughter stayed in the house where the business was first started since she is still living with her mother and Carla for her part managed to get a space in the local San Carlos Market where she has already earned the trust of the people and now she has her own regular customers.

Carla, along with her daughters, saw a positive change by being part of Self Help International, improving their quality of life by having better stability both financially and emotionally, since she feels good and fulfilled because, in addition to everything, Carla now has the ability to support her husband in household expenses, something that she did not do often, at least for the times that she emigrated with her husband to the neighboring country of Costa Rica during the coffee harvest in the months of November and December. Photo of Carla showing her products in her home

Carla thanks all the good-hearted people who take their time to help women with desires to learn. She feels very happy when she realizes that her business is improving every day and her personal life with her two daughters and husband and continues to express that she knows well that she still has a lot to learn to achieve a higher level in her business and personal life, but that she is struggling to improve every day.