About the Author: Amber Forbes is a Public Affairs Assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
The Pathways to Prosperity in Americas brings real benefits to real people. What is Pathways to Prosperity? The Pathways to Prosperity is an initiative that promotes inclusive growth, prosperity, and social justice among the 14 Western Hemisphere countries that have existing free trade agreements. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) was proud to sponsor the Pathways to Prosperity Women Entrepreneurs' Conference in October 2009, which brought together nearly 70 businesswomen for three days of intensive workshops regarding access to technology, markets, and finance. At its heart, this event provided the women with an unprecedented international networking opportunity. I met this group of extraordinary women at the conference and was moved by their passion, enthusiasm, and inspiring stories of success.
As a follow up to the conference, WHA's Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (WHA/PDA) ran a contest and asked the women to submit success stories reflecting how the Women Entrepreneurs' Conference impacted their businesses. WHA/PDA pledged to sponsor the contest winners to attend the Pathways to Prosperity Trade Ministerial that will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 3 and 4.
Over 20 women entered the contest and told incredible stories of how their bottom lines benefited from the October 2009 conference. It was a hard choice to make, but our board of judges whittled down the submissions to these four incredible winners. Here are their stories:
Jessica Rodriquez (Peru) is the Executive Director and Commercial Manager of Art Atlas Peru, which produces textiles made from organic materials. One of Art Atlas Peru's secrets to success is the network of rural artisan cooperatives and micro-enterprises involved in production. While textile sales in Peru dropped 30-50 percent in 2009, Jessica's networking skills allowed her to acquire new distributors at the State-sponsored Women Entrepreneurs' Conference and maintain stable employment for the nearly 700 families involved in her business.
Diana Martinez (Honduras) is owner and founder of Rosalila Jewelers, which produces jewelry inspired with Mayan designs. Returning from the conference, Diana reached out to media outlets and focused on marketing her products. As result of the media coverage, word quickly got out about Rosalila Jewelers and customers flooded the store. Diana's jewelry was not only given as Christmas gifts to high ranking Honduran officials, but she was also commissioned to make commemorative gifts for the Presidential Inauguration in January 2010. Diana exclaims, "I feel I owe it all to Pathways to Prosperity!"
Monica Pacheco (Canada) is an entrepreneur with a green heart. She founded and owns PMP Exports, a company specializing in the export of biodegradable plastic bags. After returning from the Women Entrepreneurs' Conference, Monica used her networking skills to shift her business focus. Now working with distributors, Monica sells to larger volumes. She signed on four distributors and screened several more throughout the hemisphere.
Jacqueline Perez (Nicaragua) is Manager of Calzado Reyes, a shoe company. Calzado Reyes faced hardship in 2009 and Jacqueline had a decision to make: shut down or gear up. The conference filled her with new ideas and a determination to turn her business around. Jacqueline was so successful in rebuilding Calzado Reyes that her loans have been repaid, she has hired eight employees, and she has once again reopened her factory outside of her home.
At the Pathways to Prosperity Trade Ministerial in Costa Rica, March 3-4, 2010, these four impressive contest winners will lead two workshops and share their success stories with over 100 other businesswomen from throughout the hemisphere. Traditionally, women have been marginalized in the business world, but initiatives like Pathways to Prosperity and businesswomen dedicated to economic development in their communities, like those at the Women Entrepreneurs Conference, are changing the shape and scope of business.