We had the great pleasure of catching up with Ruth DeGolia, Founder and Executive Director of Mercado Global, to learn more about the incredible, inspiring artisans behind the organization. Ruth started Mercado Global out of her college dorm room working with just a handful of artisans and has since grown it into a successful non-profit enterprise working with over 360 artisans in 31 cooperatives!
What is your favorite aspect of working with and visiting artisans in Guatemala?
Hands down: seeing the impact our sales and training programs have in the communities with which we work.
The women we work with are some of the most talented, hard-working and inspiring women I have ever met. These women are amazing weavers and jewelry makers – skills that have been passed down in their families for generations. These women don’t want handouts – they want a market. They want a chance to earn their own income. And they want what every other mom wants: the ability to send her daughters to school.
It is unbelievably rewarding to see how the women we work with hold themselves with increased self-confidence and pride as we help them earn their own, significant income for the first time. And, of course, the most important part is seeing their children in school (and knowing that we helped the mothers earn the funds to send their children to school themselves!) This is, ultimately, why we are all here.
Where do you see Mercado Global in 5 or 10 years?
There are two things that I would like for Mercado Global to accomplish over the next 5 to 10 years:
First of all, our goal is not to help just a few women and families in Guatemala. Our goal is to change the experience of indigenous families experience throughout the region. Rather than be known as a population that continues to suffer severe political, economic and social oppression, our vision is for Guatemala’s indigenous women to be known as some of the most successful rural entrepreneurs in the world. Our vision is for Guatemala’s highlands to be known as a place where women entrepreneurs are building the community businesses needed not just to break the cycle of local poverty but to build bright futures for their children. Rather than compete all day to sell a single bracelet to tourists, as currently done by most indigenous artisans, our vision is that they are selling 10,000 scarves to Levi Strauss each season. And rather than just beg for handouts and scholarships, our vision is that these amazing moms are earning the money they need to send their kids to school themselves.
The second part of our vision is for companies to learn how to use their market power to have a positive social impact. A purchase here and there of someone who cares is great. But imagine – if we can tap into the distribution network of major specialty retail chains, catalogs and department stores to reach hundreds of stores and thousands of customers throughout the U.S. Imagine the impact. And that is the model we have been building and are continuing to expand.
Shop our entire collection from Mercado Global here.