Your Name: Ruth DeGolia

Business Name: Mercado Global, a non-profit accessory store that donates to women in Guatemala

Type of Business: Clothing & Accessories/Social Enterprise

Business Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Twitter @mercadoglob

Reason for starting
When I visited Guatemala, I met a number of inspiring, strong, indigenous women who had lived through the horrors of Guatemala’s Civil War. They had been denied the chance to an education, and were now starving and unable to pay to send their own children to school. My only thought was: this is not right. I believe that denying a woman the right to attend school anywhere in the world affects us all. Telling a young girl that she isn’t worth educating is an injustice against all women. I realized that I had the opportunity to do my part by connecting these amazing women to the U.S. market. That was all they needed – they didn’t want a handout or a one-time scholarship. They just wanted a market so that they could take care of their families themselves. That was how Mercado Global started.

How do you define success?
Success is living the type of life YOU want to live. Its acheiving your own definition of happiness and the type of impact on the world that you want to have. No one can definte or identify your success except for you.

Biggest Success
Our biggest success happens each month. In Guatemala, people really look down on indigenous women. I love when we do our monthly major export to a different part of the world. No one believed indigenous women could be international entrepreneurs – in most cases not even their own husbands. No one believed they could bring major amounts of income into their communities and pay to send their kids to school themselves. I love how proud our partner artisans are every time we prove everyone wrong and show how incredibly talented, entrepreneurial, and innovative our are partner artisans and indigenous staff. I love when we are able to help our partner artisans achieve their potential as leaders and realize their own vision for change in their communities.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Our biggest challenge is funding. We have built such a wonderful, high-impact, and innovative model for helping indigenous women in Guatemala and U.S. consumers partner to create the type of change they wish for in the world. We have been growing sales and our artisan partnerships very quickly. However, because most of our partner artisans have never had formal education and have no savings of their own, we have to invest in training, educating and helping our partner artisans get the tools and support they need to participate in our model. We just launched a fundraising campaign to double the number of artisans we work with over the next three years. Securing the support needed to scale our model and bring this model for change to more communities is our biggest challenge right now.

Who is your most important role model?
My grandmother. She was an amazing person who had a wonderful impact on her community and the social movements that were important to her. She worked incredibly hard all of her life for the causes that were important to her, but also prioritized, loved and supportered her family.