Behind the scenes -- Sonia's story
Sonia’s life is the picture of dedication and persistence. When you first meet her, she is quiet, and even seems shy, but you quickly realize she has a powerful force within her. Her mind is always focused on managing the different aspects of her business. She is beyond humble, and with each year we get to know her, we realize how infinitely limitless her potential is.
We have had the privilege of getting to know Sonia’s story over the past three years.
Persistence and humility were instilled in Sonia by her father, whose story is riddled with tragedy and determination. By age eight, he was an orphan living on the streets, taking care of his two infant brothers. He realized that regardless of what had happened, only he could change his situation. So he began to work, and has never slowed down. Sonia’s father learned the crafts of weaving, woodworking, carpentry and sewing. He knew that as long as he had a skill, he had a chance at surviving and providing for his brothers. Despite how far he had come over the years, when Sonia was born the family still faced many struggles.
Starting her young, her father taught Sonia the artisan crafts, even though she didn’t want to learn. She wanted to be different from her father, to have a different life. But her father insisted, telling her that no matter what happened in her life, if she had these skills, she could always find work.
Sonia married young, like her parents. During their first few years of marriage, they also had very little. Sonia’s father was able to give them land next door to his house. And so, literally brick by brick, they built a home. It has been amazing to see their improvements and growth to this home over time. Sonia and her husband undergo extraordinary sacrifices to provide a better future for their three bright, kind and curious children. She often sustains long journeys, leaving the house at 3am to deliver merchandise hours away.
When we first met Sonia in October 2012, we could feel her modesty, but even more so, her fire and drive to provide for her family. What started with the creation of a floppy winter house slipper, has evolved into a full-scale partnership with Sonia as one of our leading suppliers! It’s truly crazy how much can happen in three years!
Through our partnership, we have increased the opportunities and work available to Sonia and her community and created a sustainable and dependable source of income.
This past year, we nominated Sonia to be part of OxFam’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Program in Guatemala. We have noticed that many of the artisans we work with are born entrepreneurs, building their businesses to the best of their ability. Yet, many times, they have not been trained in the traditional foundations of business, such as assessing their costs and profitability, utilizing capital tools, etc. Programs like OxFam’s are wonderful because they merge the artisan’s intuitive sense with proficient principles to ensure they are running a sustainable business. Sonia thrived in this program. The program director said finding someone at her level of skill was rare. She was awarded a medal at the end for her improvements and efforts. We are beyond excited knowing our interactions at the SoCap conference in San Francisco lead to real life, lasting impact, in Guatemala.
The ability and opportunity to work, preserve and promote traditional crafts makes tangible differences in people’s lives. Yet, overall poverty alleviation is oftentimes a generational process. The word poverty is relative as well (rich in family and community but poor in opportunities). There are those who live in extreme poverty, and those who are poor but able to work when given an opportunity. When looking at the micro-level effects, we see that hard work, coupled with access to markets and a sustainable income, creates a better future not only for the workers and their families, but for the community as well. Sonia and her father employ and share opportunities with many community members, young adults, mothers, and fathers. They are a community built on sharing and working together to move forward, while celebrating and preserving their traditional art forms.
Currently, Sonia is diligently working on expanding her workshop and production in Comalapa. She is navigating the liability and process for obtaining a loan, just like we are, taking risks in an effort to grow, and hoping that it pays off. It has truly been one of the most impactful experiences of my life to get to know, learn from, and work with Sonia and her family. She inspires me everyday with her drive, dedication, and ability to persevere.
Beyond being an amazing woman to work with, Sonia also happens to make some of our absolute favorite textiles for boots! Every single boot produced helps bring work to her community and continues to build her beautiful business! We are forever grateful for your support, Thank you!