“Thriving in San Marcos” promotes strong local economies in the MANCUERNA region of Guatemala through access to credit and business coaching for entrepreneurs in collaboration with financial institutions and civil society organizations. MANCUERNA encompasses municipalities across San Marcos and Quetzaltenango, two departments in the Western Highlands.
In 2020, over 30 entrepreneurs completed business coaching, one-third of whom were women and another third of whom were indigenous. Our coaches worked one-on-one with these business owners to strengthen their business model and adapt to the Covid-19 context.
Participants held US$450,000 in savings in small business loans during coaching, and designed innovative new products, expanded their digital marketing presence, modified their business model to quarantine and lockdown conditions, and implemented more robust accounting procedures.
“San Marcos [a city in the MANCUERNA region] is the southwestern-most municipality of Guatemala, along the Mexican border. Even though we have a strategic geographic location right at the door of one of the world’s largest markets between Mexico, the United States, and Canada, a lack of education and training causes several local businesses to struggle.
“Business education is very important because 90 percent of enterprises in Guatemala are created out of urgent necessity. Out of this need, the majority of entrepreneurs start a business without prior education and knowledge of techniques to foster business growth. They are unable to grow and reach the three strategic business objectives: subsistence, profitability, and growth… This is an important reason why San Marcos has a high migration rate.”
– Carlos Mendizabal, business coach and director of our partner, Red Nacional de Grupos Gestores de Guatemala-San Marcos hub
Reinvestment, Access to Credit, and Remittances
Conversations with our business coaches, Carlos Mendizabal and Edvin Dardón, confirm that many small businesses in MANCUERNA and nationwide operate based on subsistence strategies rather than strategic, formal business models. Due to a lack of business planning and financial advising, many small businesses only operate for a few years and then move on to a different venture once their business plan is exhausted. This contributes to increased propensities to migrate internally and internationally and leads to disturbances in urban centers that aren’t equipped to handle migration influxes.
The “Thriving in San Marcos” business coaching component presents an innovative approach to reinvest remittance income formalized through our financial education initiative into small business loans. We support these entrepreneurs through business coaching so that they are equipped to leverage their resources and skills development. As such, business coaching and reinvestment serve as a tool for migration management.
The objective is to support entrepreneurs as they build formal, financially viable businesses with the capacity to provide a steady source of income and employment opportunities, contributing to development within local communities.
Project strategies focused on partnering micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs located in areas of high migration with business coaches in order to boost competitiveness and innovation. Coaches worked with entrepreneurs to identify opportunities to innovate products, delivery options, and specialties. In addition, they also worked towards developing a mission, marketing strategies, identifying market saturation, and developing sanitation and hygiene protocols, with the objective of fostering trust and confidence among clients during the pandemic.
Coach Edvin’s Business Coaching Success Story
Edvin Dardón is a business coach by profession who worked with the Dialogue during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having experience in the field, he knows how important utilizing the right words and building trust can be for the coaching experience to be a success.
“Every entrepreneur or business will have different needs and, as a coach, I need to be very flexible, both in my demeanor and in the way that I share knowledge, in order to help create a business plan that will pay off.” – Edvin Dardon, Business Coach
One entrepreneur who participated in the program was Irma Verduo Perez, a mother and a baker who has run a bake shop out of her home for four years. Prior to the pandemic, she specialized in large cake orders that she would deliver bi-monthly. She also relied on foot traffic and market areas to sell cakes three times a week.
However, pandemic restrictions closed all outdoor vendor plazas and also increased a sense of distrust towards food deliveries, factors that almost immediately decreased Irma’s income. She became interested in the coaching program, in her own words, because “most business coaching offers come with a price. When I heard that this opportunity was completely free, I liked the fact that there were people who were interested in helping us.”
Giving Edvin her trust initially was difficult, as the pandemic heightened the mistrust that already existed within the region. However, after their first business assessment, it became clear that Irma would make the most out of the opportunity, always taking notes in her notebook and asking Edvin many questions.
Throughout the coaching sessions, Irma learned how to make a budget, utilize social media platforms to market her cupcakes, implement health protocols in light of the pandemic and, most notably, expand her array of pastries.
Coach Edvin contacted a baking and decorating specialist who came to Irma’s house and taught her how to bake two varieties of cupcakes. The cupcakes were a big success because Irma lived in a school zone and the smaller cakes appealed to a local market she hadn’t catered to before. The baking specialist even gifted Irma some baking tools to help her get started. Irma was able to keep her business running during lockdown and is trying new ways to learn recipes by watching cooking videos.
“What helped me get through this difficult time and try new things were the motivational talks that Edvin would give me. One time he said: “The key to success is to have patience but to not stay waiting for success to come to you. You have to get up and look for it,” says Irma.
“Selfishness says: ‘I’m going to keep this knowledge to myself.’ But the program wasn’t like that. The coaches share with you all the things they know. If possible, I want to participate in another coaching session with the Dialogue,” she continues.
As a result of the coaching sessions, Irma utilized new financial tools to better manage her business and build assets. In the midst of a pandemic and lockdown, her business was able to innovate products and identify a new consumer base allowing her to expand her income and provide financial stability to her family. The project in total successfully coached 32 entrepreneurs, 10 of which were women and 11 with an indigenous background.
“It gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that we are helping small businesses prosper. Thirty-two businesses coached means 32 families who now have the opportunity to improve their quality of life and living conditions… Projects like these follow the amazing premise of win-win. If the business owner wins, the employee wins. We are able to build a community with more opportunities, especially for future generations.” – Carlos Mendizabal
With support from: