REAPING THE FRUITS OF SUCCESS
Diego used to make embroidered goods, which proved extremely difficult because of his pronounced rheumatoid arthritis.
This disability quickly fatigued his hands and he often had to re-sew sections because his arthritis made it difficult to consistently produce quality work. It would take him almost 45 days to complete an embroidered or woven piece. As a result of the slow work, he only earned 240 quetzals (US $40) every 45 days.
When Diego joined Trickle Up’s Microenterprise Program for People with Disabilities, funded by USAID, he started a local fruit stand. “I sell oranges, mangos, watermelon, papaya, and mandarins.”
“At the beginning I was afraid because people passed by and they didn’t buy anything. But, little by little, some of the village children began to come and actually buy my goods.”
Diego brushed up on his business skills with Trickle Up’s training and support. For example, to restock his fruit supplies he has to travel to the market at the nearby city of Santiago Atitlan. He has had to improve his negotiation skills because, in the past, market sellers had tried selling him poor quality fruit at very high prices, hoping to take advantage of his disability.
With his training, Diego also learned how to be innovative about his fruit selling strategies.
For example, when he began, it was difficult to sell pre-cut oranges because his arthritis made it difficult to use a knife. To remedy this, he decided to buy a machine to peel the oranges which cost him 200 quetzals (US $26). In another case, he smiles as he tells us, “A watermelon costs me nine quetzals in the market and I sell it by the slice in the community. I am able to cut a watermelon into 14 pieces and I sell one piece for one quetzal. So, I am making five quetzals per watermelon and there are days that I sell two watermelons.” These strategies have made it easier and quicker to prepare the fruits and he has seen a significant increase in his sales. Diego now earns an average of 25 quetzals daily (US $3), a steady source of income which has allowed him to improve his standard of living and grow his business.
With the rest of his grant, he purchased a variety of threads to continue weaving and to provide an alternative source of income. Diego’s self-confidence has improved.
“Thanks to the program I have been able to get to know other people in the community.”
Diego also thinks about what future improvements he wants to make to his business. One of Diego’s goals is to sell other fruit products, such as orange juice and fruit sorbets, which will bring him more income. He also plans to put a roof on the front patio of his house to better accommodate and store his supplies.