What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
The most important barrier to the success of this project will be the sales (or lack thereof) of FAVE bags in the US. For this reason a designer and branding expert, Christen Forrester was brought onto the team from the beginning to help design the bags, create the look and labels and to craft an effective marketing campaign. Another barrier for sales is lack of knowledge about the concept of produce bags which will be addressed through advertising as well as an in-person at farmer’s markets and stores.
In El Salvador the biggest potential barrier for a project like this is a lack of trust and unfamiliarity with local traditions, laws and institutions. The reason for working in this community in the first places is Aaron’s deep relationship with the people and experience working in the local situation. The trust that was built after years of working in the community means that the women are willing to work and not get paid until the end of the month while the local postman helps to package and send the bags to the US for free because he sees the benefit for his community. The long-term success of this project will happen because of the local staff. To that end we have hired a local leader to facilitate and manage the decentralized production and are providing business and technical training to all the participants to increase their capacity for success. Finally, over the next ten years, the ownership of FAVE Bags will be passed to the local women who will during this time gain the experience necessary to own, operate and manage the business.
Tell us about your partnerships
San Pedro Nonualco Mayor’s Office: From the beginning we have been working closely with the local government to assure that we are in compliance with any local ordinances and maximizing our potential to bring economic benefits to the community.
CONAMYPE: This is a government ministry which facilitates training for entrepreneurs and small scale businesses. We have worked with them to provide monthly trainings for our participants.
Peace Corps El Salvador: Additional on the grounds support and initial help has been provided by Peace Corps volunteers located in and around San Pedro Nonualco.
Explain your selections
To start-up we have relied on capital from Aaron Redman, the Innovation Challenges Grant and hopefully Ashoka Changemakers as well! Once up and running though our only source of funding will be customers- buyers of FAVE Bags in the US (and eventually elsewhere as well). From the start our intention is to create a self-sustaining enterprises because this is the only way to create long-term viable opportunities for individuals and communities.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
We have three goals for our enterprise:
1) Improve our manufacturing network: This will including assisting the participating women in upgrading their sewing machines, formally incorporating in El Salvador, and improving communications/logistics. The outcome of these and other efforts will be to bring down costs and enable increased production levels.
2) Improve our supply chain: With this or other grants we will buy our raw materials in bulk, enabling us to significantly lower prices. Also we will work with experts to analyze and improve the sustainability of our supply chain (energy, materials etc.).
3) Create a nation-wide sales network: In three years we plan to have FAVE bags available in grocery stores across the US. We will do this by beginning in Arizona and expanding, state by state.