Animazul is proud to present this month's founder: Maria Pacheco.
Maria Pacheco is the founder of Wakami, a Guatemalan design brand that creates handmade jewelry and accessories by women artisans in rural communities across Guatemala. Wakami was one of the first brands to join our mission and be featured in Animazul.com.
Maria Pacheco was born in Guatemala. She is a Biologist with a Master’s degree in Agriculture. Throughout her career, she has served as a consultant to both private businesses and governmental institutions on the implementation of her Inclusive Business methodology to connect rural communities to global markets.
Her objective has always been to provide market access to vulnerable communities of Guatemala as a way to transform cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity. That's why at Wakami they say: "Dreams + Opportunites = Change"
During her panel session at the Latin American Fashion Summit in 2017, we heard her story on how she came to the idea. While working in a community affected by famine in Guatemala, Maria met a woman who had a sick child. When asked why she didn't take the child to the hospital, the woman told Maria that she had the option to take this child with the remaining $4 for the month to the doctor's, or feed her other 5 children. Maria then asked her how she could help, the lady replied: "If you can sell what we produce, the rest we can do".
This experience and this phrase changed everything for Maria. She realized that in order to transform circles of poverty into circles of prosperity, she needed to create sustainable change by giving these communities sustainable sources of income. Maria created a project that matched that communities' weaving skills and thus, Wakami was born.
Maria has won worldwide recognition for her work with Wakami. In 2007 María received the “Vital Voices Washington Global Economic Development” award. More recently, she was awarded the 2015 Stephan Schmidheiny award for Innovation in Latin America, as well as the 2013 INCAE Challenge Award, as one of the new voices of innovation in business education in the region. In 2016 Maria also received the DVF Award from The Diller – von Furstenberg Foundation, as one of the 5 women that create positive change and support women around the world. In 2016, Wakami placed third among the 27 best social businesses of the world in the Chivas The Venture competition. In 2017, Maria was honored as one of three recipients of the Goldman Sachs & Fortune Global Women Leaders Award.
Besides her work at Wakami, Maria was a member of the team leading the design of the “Economic Development from the rural areas”, a 60-million-dollar loan, granted to Guatemala by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. This loan allowed more than 300 rural businesses to access global markets. She has co-created the Guatemalan chapter of the Vital Voices Central American Network and she is also part of the Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Institute.
To hear her story from her own perspective, check out the very intimate interview "A Cup of Coffee with Maria" here.