The Aj Batz Trust Bank consists of 14 amazing women from the rural area of Chichicastenango, Guatemala. These women have been clients of Friendship Bridge for many years, they continue to apply for microloans and education from Friendship Bridge because they feel it is a great tool for them. Over the past several years, they have grown their businesses, which benefits their whole family and even other members of their community.
Recently, the Aj Batz Trust Bank welcomed four new members: Anastasia Quino, Maria Quino, Marta Cuterez, and Maria Calel. All are very excited to be part of the group. “I learned about Friendship Bridge from a friend. My husband and I discussed the opportunity and agreed it would be good for our family because to make more money at my small convenience store, I needed to increase the inventory,” explains Mary Quino.
“I live near the other members of the Aj Batz Trust Bank, so I asked them for more information. I liked what I heard, so I made my decision to join. I’m happy with this first loan cycle and I invested the loan in the production of textiles,” says Marta Cuterez.
Each month, the women meet to repay their loans and gather for an information education lesson. These lessons are provided by a trained loan officer and are included with their microloan from Friendship Bridge, thus the name Microcredit Plus. The loan officer travels to a home of a Trust Bank member for these meetings. Topics range from budgeting and customer service to self-esteem and women’s health.
Even though it was cloudy and cold morning when we visited the Aj Batz Trust Bank, the ladies had a lot of fun during their meeting. Lots of laughs were shared, especially when all of the ladies got actively involved during this month’s education session focused on marketing (specifically product, price, place and promotion). The clients freely compare their small businesses, and discuss openly whether they can implement any marketing strategies to promote their businesses. These women have businesses that are based around the Guatemalan art of textiles. Their products include: tablecloths, napkins, huipils (Guatemalan shirts), scarves and much more.
The Friendship Bridge loan officer and facilitator, Tomasa Sen, starts the session with the first theme: product. She talks about how the product size and presentation can make a difference in the mind of the client at the time of purchase. The group also covers the importance of pricing your product so that it covers hard costs but is also market appropriate depending on their audience (wholesalers, retailers, or final consumers). Slowly the conversation turns to where they sell, which varies from woman to woman. They sell in the Plaza, out of their home, on the street, or door-to-door. Based on that, the women discuss promotions. The ladies all agree that they can advertise their product in many ways including posters and word of mouth.
Meet the Trust Bank President:
Each Trust Bank elects its own board, including president and treasurer. After the meeting, we had a chance to catch up with Aj Batz Trust Bank president, Tol Cuterez Josefa (she prefers to be called Josefa). Josefa is 46 years-old and has 12 children. Her business is creating and selling textiles – mostly shawls, but she also makes tablecloths and huipils. She uses her income to provide more nutritious meals for her large family. Josefa enjoys being president because it allows her to improve her leadership skills and learn more about how to organize a group. Josefa’s dream is to see all her children reach sixth grade, and possibly advance to high school. She knows this may be difficult because her children have many needs, and she and her husband have to give the same opportunities to all of them, but she is working hard to make this happen.
“I appreciate the support and tools Friendship Bridge provides. I also like the education piece of the organization because it teaches us how to be more profitable. Many of us are a little shy to share our stories to the group but when we do, we enjoy it and we feel part of the change in our communities,” explains Josefa.
Thank you Whole Foods Belmar for supporting Aj Batz!