Maria Pacheco is the founder and president of Kiej de los Bosques, a social enterprise in Guatemala that exports jewelry made by local women artisans. Products are exported under the brand “Wakami” to over 14 countries in the world, benefiting families in more than 17 rural communities.
Pacheco grew up in a country filled with poverty, war, and death. Seeing that many Guatemalans lived oblivious to this reality, she decided she was not going to take part in that and created a company with the purpose of helping to transform not only her country but the entire region. She came to INCAE to reinforce her business knowledge.
Pacheco is someone who believes that by connecting the rural communities with the business world through value chains, real transformation can be made. Such transformations will come from businesses that, like Wakami, value the region’s ancestral qualities, recover ecosystems, and acknowledge the importance of people.
In 1993, Pacheco began working with a small group of farmers in the Guatemalan highlands. When famine struck in 2002, she intervened by encouraging the locals to increase their income working with local products such as wood and fibers. After some time, this approach strengthened development in the communities. It directly impacted nutrition and education among the artisan children and empowered the producers, enabling them to form new businesses and giving them the ability to save, promoting investment in their communities.
Today, 17 communities work directly with Kiej de los Bosques, mainly by making jewelry products that are exported to the world under the brand Wakami. Craftswomen have also been empowered to become the main providers of their households, as the company employs 90 percent women. Pacheco, through her company, has been able to transform cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity.
Pacheco is a valuable leader because her work is grounded in strong social awareness, and she is a prime example that one individual’s idea, along with the right tools, can have a meaningful and widespread impact. With leadership like Pacheco’s, this kind of work will be a step in moving society closer to a world without poverty or wars.