Rosa, Bolivia

Rosa using her new sewing machine.

Rosa using her new sewing machine.

A gifted seamstress, Rosa often traveled and taught embroidery and crafts to other women in the villages of Tarija. Her long treks carried her through the highlands of the Cordillera de Sama, meeting with women and young girls.

Rosa's teaching trips left her frequently away from her family, and the income from teaching was irregular and unreliable. To make ends meet, she helped her sister sell bread in the streets. The days began early, mixing sweet dough, baking, and carrying bundles of bread to the local markets.

Still Rosa dreamed of embroidery and the bread sales were never enough. Her husband's work provided food and basic necessities, but her children were growing and hoped one day to go to college.

"Parents do not want to tell their children that there is no money to study, so I was praying to have a business to earn more money."

Through her church, Rosa joined a small group that met for prayer. The group also took lessons in business and studied the biblical parable of the talents.

"The teaching of the Five Talents encouraged me because talent can mean not only money, [but] also the resources that we have from the Lord… The important thing is not how much we have. The important [thing] is what we are doing with what we have."

Rosa and her group began to save together, each member setting aside a few bolivianos each week. Rosa had tried to save before, but she was never able to accumulate much. Through her group, however, Rosa gained access to a growing savings pool and affordable loans. She used her first loan to purchase an embroidery machine.

The clothes Rosa has produced.

The clothes Rosa has produced.

"Thanks to a loan from the savings group, I was able to buy the machine and then the materials to open my workshop and start working with the talent that God gave me."

Rosa now runs a small workshop in her home. "I'm not a seamstress," she insists. "Now I'm a small business owner."

With her machines and stock, Rosa can now accept wholesale orders from schools, craft shops, and the City Hall. She can prepare uniforms and modern clothing, but she also loves to embroider traditional dresses and farmers' clothing from alpaca, llama, cotton fabric, or sheep's wool.

"With my work I strengthen the culture and identity of Tarija. [By] making costumes I help keep the culture alive. All who live in Tarija should be proud of the good traditions and customs of our land, and the farmers' clothing is beautiful."

Today, Rosa is proud of how her business has grown. She's putting her talent to good use and using her profits to take her daughter to university.

"Since I joined the group of savings I bought gradually everything I needed with the loans and my savings in the group. Now my health has improved because I work near my home…and I can pay the studies of my daughters and other necessities that were in my home. Being part of a group of savings is a blessing."

This story was written by staff in our Five Talents USA office. Find out more about how you can support entrepreneurs like Rosa, either as an individual giver or as an organisation. There is so much you can do to help!