It all started with a workshop at Unbound.
That’s what Teresa, a mother from Guatemala said about the shampoo and detergent business she created with three other mothers from her community. It also got started thanks to the determination of these mothers to provide for their families.
When Unbound staff visited Teresa’s small community in 2004, they witnessed the struggles many families in the area faced. Her 8-year-old daughter Celeste was among the children selected to receive sponsorships. Sponsorship meant more than just basic needs like food, clothing and education. It meant Teresa and her family became part of a supportive group of fellow sponsored members and Unbound staff, offering encouragement, inspiration and hope.
Teresa and Magda, another mother from her community, attended a workshop on shampoo making through Unbound in 2007. They gained skills to start their own business, but it took some time for them to build the confidence to start using them.
“The staff always encouraged us to take the next step,” Magda shared. “They gave us training, but we didn’t have the courage to start the livelihood. Then Teresa, Gregoria, Amparo and I got together and convinced ourselves that we had the capability of starting a shampoo business. Teresa and I trained Gregoria and Amparo.”
According to Teresa, their livelihood initiative officially began on July 12, 2009. They decided on the name Flor de Oriente, or Flower of the East, for their brand name, and continued to gain knowledge as they went.
“It was a learning process and we have improved our product along the years,” Teresa said. She laughed as she continued. “At first we used Coke bottles for our shampoos. The [Unbound] staff said, ‘The shampoo is excellent, but you need to find a nicer bottle.'”
This group of mothers now has four different shampoos, chamomile, egg white, sapodilla and aloe, and has even started making laundry detergent. They work out of Teresa’s home, mixing all of the ingredients by hand. Some of the items they have to purchase, but others, like aloe and chamomile, they are able to harvest locally.
“Unbound was our first customer, their first order was 800 bottles of shampoo!” Teresa said. “… Unbound is still our primary customer. Our challenge now is finding new customers. This year detergent sales have surpassed shampoo sales; we recently sold over 5,600 bags of detergent to Unbound programs in this area.”
They are taking their profits and investing back into their business, while leaving enough to pay each of the four a $10.40 daily wage.
“With the earnings we pay production costs like electricity, transportation and materials,” Teresa said. “We also put money into our group savings account. I guess our challenge is to figure all these things out because we are not accountants. But thanks to God we have been able to figure out the numbers of our livelihood.”
Magda, who is a single mother of four, is grateful for more than the steady income taking part in this livelihood has afforded her.
“Before this livelihood I used to work outside my village washing dishes and cleaning in a restaurant,” she shared. “I could only see my children on weekends, but now I can be with them every day. This is a great benefit for me and my family. Now I can buy things that my children need. Thanks to this job I got my oldest son through high school, he is now an accountant and has a job.”
Amparo’s husband has been ill for several years, and participating in this livelihood has allowed her to support her family.
“I thank God for this job,” she said. “Thanks to this work I can send my children to school. My oldest girl is now studying to be a nurse.”
When asked what advice she would give to other mothers about participating in Unbound, Teresa talked about surrounding yourself with people who are motivated.
“Ask to be trained and have good communication with people, especially with those who also have the determination to work and do something to improve in life,” she said. “Don’t just sit and wait for the apple to fall from the tree.”
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