Self-Help Empowers Eveling to Take Her Business Online

By Edelia Aracelly Cruz Torrez | Empowering Women Project officer

Eveling is 29 years old, married with one daughter. She has a modest level of education. She lives in the community of La Culebra, about 11 kilometers from the Self-Help International headquarters at San Carlos, Nicaragua, in the Department of Rio San Juan. Eveling told us that her family was originally from Chinandega, a city about 410 km. from San Carlos. They decided to start a new life in Rio San Juan when she was barely one year old. The family lived in the El Delirio community on the farm of a friend who had asked her parents to come to help work it.  The owner of the farm allowed them to live on the farm and grow food such as rice, beans and corn. They also planted fruit trees such as avocado, orange, mango, and papaya, in addition to raising pigs and chickens. They spent nine years living on that farm, until one day Eveling´s parents decided that it was time for them to find their own property. They sold all the animals they had and with savings from their crops they managed to buy a house in a town called Cruz Verde. Eveling along with her brothers began to attend school for the first time.  She was ten years old at that time.

Eveling’s business in its early stages

After finishing primary school Eveling had to travel to another community called Nueva Jerusalem, about 9 kilometers from Cruz Verde, to continue her studies. She was able to graduate while her brothers continued working shoulder to shoulder with their father. Later on Eveling wanted to study at a university in San Carlos, but her parents’ income was not enough to help her pay for her education.  She decided to look for a job to support her studies, but after two years of working and studying at the same time things became complicated for her. The place where she worked changed owners and the new owners decided to run the business themselves. Eveling had to leave her job and studies and return to her parents’ house in Cruz Verde. Those moments were very difficult for her, since her dream was to study to be a nurse.

Some time later Eveling got married and began a new stage in her life. One day one of her husband’s sisters told her “What would you say if I brought some underwear for you to sell?  It brings a high price and the profits will be good for both of us.”  Eveling hesitated to make such a decision, but in the end she decided to accept her sister-in-law’s proposal. “I did not touch a single cent of my sales.  My goal was to grow the business and my profits, so I invested my part of the profits along with the money of my sister-in-law.  After five months I decided to start my own business. Thanking my sister-in-law for her support, I told her that now I was going to continue selling but with my own funds that I had managed to save and reinvest.”

She continued: “I started my business with just C$3,500 (about 100 dollars), which for me was a lot of money. I went out to the surrounding communities to sell my products from house to house, and that’s how I started to build my customers. In my house I displayed the products on a small wooden table.  Now I have shelves where I can place the products and everyone who passes by can see them.”

Eveling continued by saying that she was looking for strategies to continue growing her business. On one occasion, she joined forces with a friend who encouraged her to go to Managua with her and make purchases directly in the Oriental Market, the largest informal market in Nicaragua, where products are sold wholesale at low prices.

Time passed until one day Eveling’s husband told her that one of her aunts had invited her to come to a training meeting with Self-Help International. Eveling did not want to attend, because the same day she had to go to Managua to purchase her business products.  In addition, she had already had a bad experience with a meeting with another entity where she and some women arrived at the agreed place, but the hostess didn’t show up. H0wever, her husband convinced her to attend the meeting. She already knew some of the women at the meeting, but others she met for the first time.

Eveling told us that “The Self-Help program officer, Aracelly Cruz, explained to us in great detail what the Women’s Empowerment Program was about, and from that first moment I was impressed by the benefits I could achieve if I enrolled, especially because I like to learn and Self-Help International was offering us a range of training topics such as Basic Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Self-esteem, and Personalized Health.  That same day I asked to be part of the program and the following week I provided all my documents and data so that Aracelly could prepare my file. Approximately two months after participating in the training I realized that the Women’s Empowerment Program also provided financing with low interest rates and very favorable conditions for women who are starting a business. I applied for a loan from SHI, and managed to obtain C$5,000 córdobas (about 140 dollars), which I used to buy supplies for my business. My goal was to make it grow and help my husband with household expenses. I currently have received three loans from SHI and for me it has been a great experience.  I have sold more products and obtained greater profits. I have also received a personalized visit and training in basic accounting. I put into practice what I´ve learned on a daily basis in my business.”

“I have also received followup from the program officer. I really like her to visit me because she looks directly at my progress in my business and sees what else I can do to continue growing it. On one of her visits she suggested that I should use new sales strategies such as social media to promote my products.  By uploading photos to WhatsApp and Facebook, people can look at them and be encouraged to buy from me. Also, I could use social media to place my orders online and not have to travel long distances, exhausting my resources and energy. At first,I was not very open to this idea of ​​using social media. I was embarrassed and afraid to use it.  I didn’t know how to manage phones very well. I was afraid of making a mistake and giving someone a chance to steal my products. Even so, time passed and the program officer persisted. Finally, I took the risk and changed my method of selling from house to house to the online method. It was a surprise for me, and I am very happy that the program officer insisted I try it.”

“Now I place an order online and my providers send the products to me through CARGOTRAN, a service that does deliveries, or on the bus that travels directly from Managua to San Carlos. This way I avoid traveling to Managua and spending more money than necessary. I avoid losing things on the way back home, and most of my clients place orders with me using social media.  They call me or send me a message on WhatsApp placing the order. The most important thing is that now people come to my house to pick up their orders, so I don’t have to leave my house carrying many heavy products to deliver to my clients.”

“I feel happy and grateful with the support I have received from Self-Help International.  Not only have I been a beneficiary, but the members of my family, as well.  Now I share household expenses with my husband and I continue investing my savings in my business. I have also generated an employment opportunity for one of my sisters who sometimes takes care of my daughter and does my housework when I am busy with clients.  My duty is to give them good service, something that I learned through the training I received from the Women’s Empowerment Program.”

“I hope that Self-Help International continues to support  women who want to improve themselves, since in this country there are many women who want to work but due to lack of encouragement we let our dreams remain stagnant. That is why I ask that you continue to support SHI, because now I feel like a successful woman who has grown both personally and financially, and I want to continue learning new skills, since SHI always has something new to offer to women for their personal development.”