What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
Due to the recession, consumer consumption has decreased significantly over the past few years. With decreasing demand, MayaWorks has struggled to maintain the level of work for its artisans that we’ve been able to provide in the past. If consumers continue to spend cautiously, it will negatively affect our ability to sustain level purchases from our artisan groups. In response, we are preparing to access new markets for MayaWorks products and improve our infrastructure to reach these markets, namely by redeveloping our e-commerce website.
The volatility in the cotton market could also pose a barrier to our success. This past year, rising cotton prices, as well as rising production and labor costs, have affected the worldwide textile industry and MayaWorks' ability to bring product to market.
The company from which MayaWorks sources first quality cotton thread ceased production for several months causing a thread scarcity in Guatemala. We immediately began working with other local thread cooperatives as a short term solution; however, long-term production solutions were created in partnership with the Guatemalan staff and MayaWorks artisans.
First, MayaWorks has begun to collaborate with local companies to source natural, reusable, and eco-friendly materials available in Guatemala. We are also collaborating with local talent, including design consultants and university students to keep design costs down. Other solutions include discontinuing production of larger woven items, and investing in smaller, functional products that can be sold at a favorable price point.
Tell us about your partnerships
These partnerships are vital to the MayaWorks mission:
1. Artisans: MayaWorks artisans are not organized by cooperatives but rather by local weaving groups. They share leadership and, together, decide who will be a part of their group and what products they will make. MayaWorks has worked with the same weaving groups since its inception.
2. Guatemala Staff: MayaWorks’ Guatemala operation is completely managed by indigenous women. These administrators understand the complexities of doing business in Guatemala, speak the artisans’ native language and live in the same communities. More importantly, they are driven by their desire to see indigenous women progress in a country where they are often regarded as less than second class citizens.
3. Volunteers: MayaWorks also works with 150 volunteers, mostly women, in 26 states around the U.S. They are the backbone of the organization. They range in age from early 20s to middle 70s. They tend to be Caucasian, middle class and highly educated. Two factors that unite them is their profound desire to work on behalf of women’s economic justice and their love of Guatemalan textile art. Volunteers sell MayaWorks products in their local communities.
4. Customers and donors: MayaWorks customers and donors are a vital partner in providing ongoing work and community programming for our artisans and their families. Without them, MayaWorks would not have an outlet for artisans’ handcrafted products and would not be able to provide scholarships, support tutoring centers and fund microcredit loans.
Explain your selections
80% of revenue is generated from sales of our handcrafted artisan products and 4% is raised from tour proceeds. Through MayaWorks tours, U.S. women are introduced to the Maya women who create the products sold in the U.S. In hearing the life stories of the Guatemalan women and visiting their villages and home, U.S. women strengthen their commitment and return home to promote MayaWorks by selling our products.
The remaining 16% of revenue is raised from donations. MayaWorks has attracted strong support from individual donors since its inception, and is working to build support from foundations and corporations. Currently, 80% of donations are made by individuals, 14% come from foundations, 3% are made by businesses and the remaining 3% come from church groups.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
The next three years, MayaWorks will respond to market conditions and develop organizational resources to provide more work for artisans and improve education and microcredit program services. Our efforts will focus on branding, messaging and increasing sales so that we can meet the significant challenges ahead. To strengthen the organization, MayaWorks has identified four priorities in its 2011 business plan:
I.Improve organizational infrastructure to provide increased work for artisans: MayaWorks will develop a new website as the major platform to convey mission, brand and message to the public and to expand its retail customer base. The new e-commerce site will incorporate search engine optimization to reach more customers and will allow us to improve inventory management.
II.Create a product development and production plan: MayaWorks will streamline product development and production to improve operations and expand product offerings. The plan will include product feasibility and development, production planning, financial analysis, product marketing, and artisan capacity building.
III.Expand MayaWorks’ wholesale market: MayaWorks will increase its capacity to reach wholesale customers and ultimately increase commercial sales by improving wholesale sales infrastructure.
IV. Create an associate board and expand volunteer opportunities: MayaWorks will create a working board of young professionals who will provide direct support in program evaluation and planning, marketing, and social networking. We will also create market-based projects for volunteers.