Andrea Paltzer, The Earth Education Project, Nicaragua, Social Enterprise, Empowering Women, The Story ExchangeYour name: Andrea Paltzer
Business name: The Earth Education Project, an education and employment service for women in Nicaragua
Type of Business: Social Enterprise
Business location: London, England

Twitter @EarthEducationP

Reason for starting
I started The Earth Education Project because I saw a way to provide a community with the tools to lift themsevles out of poverty. I believe that small businesses and social enterprise charities can offer communities a lasting solution to problems they have come across such as, lack of education and a lack of employment opportunities. We, the Earth Education Project (EEP), work with women living in the La Chureca community in Nicaragua, Central America’s largest open air rubbish dump. EEP provides women with an education and an employment opportunity recycling paper, at our workshop set up in the community, which they use make greetings cards and jewellery. For participating in the workshop the women receive a monthly economic stipend with which they can support their families and send their children to school. Ultimately we aim for the workshop to become sustainable through sales of the products.

How do you define success?
Everyone’s definition of success is different; what holds meaning and value for one person does not hold true for all. Personal success is being able to do what you love for a living and being at peace with your choices in your career and life. For EEP, we are successful when we achieve our mission – to provide the women of La Chureca, mothers and the ones responsible for their children’s welfare and education, with an alternative to working on the dump to enable them to break the cycle of poverty. Each woman that we have given the opportunity to change her life and that of her family since 2009 is a success story. I think success for a charity is defined by doing the most good with the resources given. Even though times can be difficult and donations will rise and fall; success can always be measured by the degree of positive impact you make with what you have.

Biggest Success
EEP’s biggest success is that we have changed, and continue to change, women’s lives in Nicaragua because we have designed a project that works. All women are literate when previously illiterate, and their children go to school when they previously worked on the dump. Another success for us is our reputation in the community we work in. Residents approach us as they would like to participate and NGOs want to work with us to replicate the project in communities they work in – you can form partnerships based on your track record and a community itself wants you to expand your reach it’s a success.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Like any charity our top challenge is funding and sustainability. We have successfully raised funds for the last 4 years but our top challenge now is to make the charity sustaianble as a business through the sales of the products. So far we have sold products at markets, fundrasing events, in small stores and online but we need to grow. I would say this is our biggest challenge. We know EEP works as a project, we need to know now that we can be sustainable. This year we are focusing on our marketing channels in Europe and the USA, looking for more clients for the recyled greeting cards, as well as, expanding into other product lines and conducting further market reserach to see if other paper products could appeal to more clients.

Who is your most important role model?
Many people inspire me, I am thankful for all those who have crossed my path with encouragement, and criticism to help me along this journey, not least the women that EEP works with as it is their perseverance in the face of adversity that inspire me daily to make EEP a success. My most important role model is a difficult one to single out, were it not for my mum saying “go for it” I would probably not be doing this. I admire Samantha Nutt, Frida Kahlo, Afrikids, Practical Action & many more.