A loan of $800 helped to buy fabric, threads, buttons and accessories.

Elena Mercedes's story

Elena Mercedes Meléndez Q. is a hard-working, 69 year-old woman who lives with one of her sons and three grandchildren in the town of San Jacinto, in the center of Bolívar province, in the north of the country. This town is famous nationwide for its beautiful handicrafts, especially hammocks, backpacks and hats.

This small businesswoman has had a dressmaking workshop in her home for thirty years. She makes dresses, pants, school uniforms, blouses and shirts. She decorates these last items, embroidering them by hand and sells them for an average of 120,000 Colombian pesos as they require a lot of work. Elena learned her trade as a dressmaker in her home town when she was very young. She watched how her mom made dresses and pants for her younger siblings. At the beginning, Elena used to sew her own clothes by hand, then her father gave her a family sewing machine as a present and she started sewing for other people.

This is Elena's first loan with Fundación Mario Santo Domingo and she plans to invest it in buying fabric, threads, buttons and accessories. Her monthly sales average is 1,200,000 Colombian pesos and her profit margin is 40%. During the months of January and February her sales increase considerably as there is a lot of demand for uniforms during the back-to-school season.

Elena is a widow. She has four children who all work and help out financially. Making clothes is a very enjoyable job for Elena and she will continue in this work while she still benefits from good health and embroidering, more than a job, is an activity that she really enjoys doing. She says with pride that she is self taught. She never attended any technical school and her biggest satisfaction is seeing her customers wearing the clothes that she makes.

Translated from Spanish by Kiva volunteer Linda Oxnard

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