Empower women. Eliminate poverty.


Entrepreneurship: Opportunity or Necessity?

Doña Maria Eugenia stands in her shoe shop in Mazatenango, Guatemala.  She and her six colleagues produce three dozen pair of shoes per day.

by Rachel Turner

I stood by the busy highway waiting for my bus, enjoying the warm sun, and breathing air heavy with humidity in Mazatenango, Guatemala.

A colorfully painted school bus slammed on breaks in front of me. My colleague stuck her head out the window and I jumped on. We chatted for an hour traveling to Doña Maria Eugenia’s shoe workshop. Doña Maria Eugenia had been a client with Friendship Bridge for years and had recently joined the Client Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors. I was excited to meet her.

“Welcome!” said Doña Maria Eugenia with a big smile, inviting us into her 12’x6’ shop. Two windows provided light, while sewing machines and shoe materials covered three tables. As we chatted several of her friends and colleagues arrived. These women supported each other and laughed together daily.

“Being a client with Friendship Bridge has helped me move ahead with our shoemaking business and in my personal life,” said Doña Maria Eugenia. “Through our Trust Bank loans, we receive monthly education, have access to advanced trainings, and mentorship. I want to be a leader that helps women have vision, take initiative, and make a difference.”

Energetic and always thinking ahead, it’s apparent that Doña Maria Eugenia enjoys being an entrepreneur and the president of her Trust Bank. “Most entrepreneurship stems from necessity,” said Doña Maria Eugenia. “When faced with great challenges, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed and miss open doors, but we must pay attention and walk through doors of opportunity to get ahead.”

Doña Maria Eugenia has three children who motivate her daily. As a single mom, she rises at 5:30 a.m. to prepare for the day and falls into bed at 11 p.m. On the weekends she sells fish and homemade snacks at the market.

“My dream is to see my children graduate. I think that’s the best inheritance that I could leave them,” said Doña Maria Eugenia. “Perhaps they can start their own business too. I tell them that it’s best not to depend on someone else to give them work – create your own work! Be an entrepreneur!”

I left inspired – as I often am – after spending time with Friendship Bridge clients. Doña Maria Eugenia reminded me of important lessons:

  1. Be a lifelong learner.
  2. Even when overwhelmed with life, look up for doors of opportunity and step through.
  3. Encourage and teach children about entrepreneurship.

Rachel Turner is the Global Communications Manager for Friendship Bridge. Having worked and lived throughout the world, she’s now enjoys calling Panajachel, Guatemala, home.