Diego Olivero, a Young Leaders of the Americas Fellow (YLAI), understands that running a successful business means overcoming obstacles.
When he started his company, the Mayan Store, in 2005 he wanted to “connect artisans with the international market.” His goal was to share Guatemalan handicrafts with the world and to help create a sustainable income to lift local artisans out of poverty.
“Guatemala has a very long tradition of handicrafts, but they’ve been doing it the same way for the past 200 years,” he said. “What we’ve done is we’ve innovated the techniques… so we’re able to create new, different products that are able to access international markets.”
Unfortunately, his plans were easier said than done, as he describes below.
After his initial troubles, the Mayan Store now employs almost 450 local artisans, 80 percent of whom are women.
“It’s good to empower women,” he says. “Women are the economic engines for families to provide food, education and shelter.”
Because social entrepreneurship was such an important part of The Mayan Store’s mission, Olivero took advantage of his YLAI fellowship to meet and network with like minded entrepreneurs.
“I would definitely advise other social entrepreneurs to join and participate in the YLAI program,” he said. “It is an amazing experience, and it gives you a broad vision of who you are, what you’re doing, and what’s going on around the world.”