Local nonprofit sells Guatemalan handicrafts to empower women entrepreneurs

From its office in Lakewood, Friendship Bridge works to eradicate poverty in Guatemala

By Lydia Shoaf

Friendship Bridge, a local nonprofit that creates opportunities for Guatemalan women to grow their businesses, has renovated part of their Lakewood office into a store selling authentic Guatemalan products, handcrafted by their artisan customers from the rural areas of the country.

The showroom in the office features a collection of handmade handbags, scarves, home decor baskets, ornaments and other gift items in rich colors and textiles. “Guatemala is well known for its vibrant colors and very rich culture that began with the Mayan civilization,” said Maya Colop-Morales, Handicrafts Program Manager, Handmade by Friendship Bridge. “We see these colors in traditional clothing as well as in street art and paintings on buildings in the city.”

Shoppers can also find beaded jewelry made by women like Mirian, a Friendship Bridge customer who lives in San Jorge la Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala, who hopes to one day buy a tiny house so her children can have their own bedroom. . “When I fulfill orders, I can buy notebooks for my children and also buy groceries for my house. The dreams I have are for my business to grow and be able to help my family,” Mirian said. “I want to educate my children…because I haven’t had the opportunity to study.

Helping artisans sell products is just one of the many services offered by Friendship Bridge to help Guatemalan women entrepreneurs grow their businesses, support themselves and thrive in their home country. Since 1998, the organization has provided small loans and business training to low-income women who would otherwise not qualify for traditional loans.

“An advanced training program that artisans receive focuses on understanding international markets,” Colop-Morales explained. “As a class activity, they are creating two different shopper profiles, including a mood board with cutouts from international fashion magazines. It helps them to design and produce for the buyer.

Support the women entrepreneurs of Friendship Bridge by clicking “Shop” at www.friendshipbridge.org or by making an appointment to shop in person at the office showroom, 405 Urban St., Ste. 140 Lakewood, 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday. Call 303-674-0717 or email [email protected]

Lydia Shoaf is Content and Press Officer for Friendship Bridge.

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