Stories

Design Thinking to boost online sales for women entrepreneurs in Central America (en)

27 avril 2020
ITC Nouvelles
An ITC project teamed up with a Spanish design school to enable women-led handicraft businesses to make new products for new markets

Handicraft designers and business mentors from ITC partner institutions in six Central American countries have been trained to analyze target markets and adapt product designs to market trends so that they can boost online sales.

The training, delivered by Fundación EOI, Spain's premier business school and its FUNDESARTE organization, is part of a project to link women-led businesses in Central America to the global gift and home decoration industry. The European Union funds the project, and ITC implements it in collaboration with the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA).

During training in El Salvador, the group of designers visited an artisanal workshop in an indigenous town near the capital that works with leather. They followed the production of a handbag combining leather with petate (traditionally woven fibres from the leaves of palm trees) to add value.

In Costa Rica, participants visited a wood workshop and the Fábrica de Carretas in the Sarchí community to learn about the country's culture and traditions and how they are embedded in its crafts.

"The combination of design, local handicrafts and sustainability, together with the possibilities offered by e-commerce, provides opportunities for sellers to access both consolidated and emerging new markets," said Fundación EOI professor Victoria de Pereda.

The training is part of the second component of the project focused on the design and development of products for new markets. Five intensive courses were delivered for:

  • silver and costume jewellery
  • natural fibre and textile products
  • ceramics
  • leather goods
  • wood products


Fundación EOI used the Design Thinking approach to train the Central American mentors and designers to develop ideal designs by using creative design methodologies for handicrafts. The training entailed various customer-centred design phases such as production, review, and improvement.

Design Thinking methodology is a non-linear process that allows artisans to develop, prototype, and test their products. The product design and development training will help the women-led handicraft companies from Central America to develop new product lines for new markets, including the European market.

Participants created imaginary brands to market their products and then designed a flagship product. They also used 3D printers, laser cutting and other new technologies available in a FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) to manufacture prototypes which were then refined with Design Thinking dynamics.

After completing the training with Fundación EOI, the Central American mentors and designers will train companies in Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The same companies are also improving their online presence, with ITC support. With the new knowledge acquired in product design and development and e-commerce, ITC is empowering the women entrepreneurs to sell online successfully.

The same companies are also improving their online presence, with ITC support. With the new knowledge acquired in product design and development and e-commerce, ITC is empowering the women entrepreneurs to sell online successfully.