For women in e-commerce, collaboration means everything
“The pandemic has taught us entrepreneurs that together we are stronger. If we support each other, we can achieve whatever we want”, says Mónica Gamboa, Founder of Burío, a handmade business producing sustainable fashion in Costa Rica.
In 2020, Mónica decided to open an online store. Before the pandemic, she employed seven women and her main clients were schools and institutions. But the crisis caused a huge decrease in sales and the founder had to lay off her team.
It was then that Mónica decided to shift her business model: she researched new market trends, developed new products and gave her brand a new name. Burío’s founder also worked on a brand positioning strategy with structured promotional campaigns to define her target audience. Much of this change was guided by her mentor, Lucrecia de González, Founder of Casa Cotzal, a home-décor wholesale business in Guatemala.
The result of the joint work has been threefold: a new website for the Burío brand, increased sales and hiring the seven women with whom Mónica used to work.
“Supporting someone at a distance is not easy. Our collaboration has been an adventure, and dedication and motivation have been key. The tutor learns as much as the student. Undoubtedly, I would repeat the mentoring experience,” says Lucrecia.
Collaboration through the E-commerce Leadership Programme
Both Mónica and Lucrecia participated in the E-commerce Leadership Programme for Central American businesses led by women, organized by ecomConnect, the International Trade Centre’s e-commerce programme. It allowed advanced businesses in Central America to mentor fellow beneficiaries.
In July 2021, ITC held the programme’s final event, where six finalists presented their joint journey in opening an Etsy shop or a transactional website. The participating companies were:
- Arte y Decoración (student) and Rengifo (tutor)
- Caite Velas (student) and Casa de los GIgantes (tutor)
- Liz Sirena (student) and Gato Negro (tutor)
- Rengifo (student) and Algodones Mayas (tutor)
- Eufonía (student) and Itza Wood (tutor)
- Burio (student) and La Casa Cotzal (tutor)
The winners of the contest were Carmen de Rengifo, founder of Rengifo, and Luisa Villavicencio, founder of Algodones Mayas, who were awarded support from ITC to optimize their websites, with paid ad campaigns and improved branding.
The event benefitted from the participation of the European Union and the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA). “Women tend to support each other,” said Kathrin Renner, Cooperation Officer at the European Commission. "Solidarity is key to facing challenges that surely were not thought to be possible to achieve."
For Carmen Romero, Director of Cooperation and Projects at SIECA, e-commerce was key for overcoming the current crisis: “As Central Americans, as women, we are happy to see that we are spreading our culture. E-commerce helps us transcend borders and is key in the economic reactivation process, generating sales and increasing employment in the region.”
About the e-commerce project in Central America
This programme is part of the Project “Linking Central American Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) with the Global Gifts and Home Decoration Market”, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) and national implementing partners in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.