Navigating the crisis through online sales
A woman leading a business in Nicaragua knows what it takes to grow in times of turbulence
'The first lesson I learned during the COVID-19 crisis was that those who offered their products through e-commerce were more likely to sell than those who did not have an online store,' says Maria Isabel Montoya, founder of Nicahat.
The Nicaraguan company sells handmade, traditional hats made with 'pita' fibre. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, Nicahat's sales from January to October 2020 exceeded sales for the same period of the previous year by 7%, a huge achievement and testament to the power of leveraging e-commerce channels.
Maria Isabel dedicated the first weeks of the pandemic to designing new products, analysing markets for potential online demand and optimizing Nicahat's online presence. The owner learned how crucial identifying and understanding your customers is. By using an empathy map, she was able to put the client at the centre of her business strategies.
How was Maria able to gain such confidence and turn it into winning business ideas?
'Without ITC's support, this dream would not be a reality,' Maria Isabel says joyfully.
Her new business venture started in February 2019, when she joined the ITC project, Linking Central American Women-Owned Businesses with the Global Gifts and Home Decoration Market. Throughout the year, the Nicaraguan gained knowledge on international export management, market research, creation of quality content and traffic generation for e-commerce. She started creating engaging videos and high-quality photos to attract customers on online channels like Facebook and Etsy.
Moreover, thanks to social media, the company received widespread attention, which helped Nicahat reach new clients and expanding markets.
'With quality audio-visual products we were successful in selling abroad and being invited to international trade fairs,' Maria says.
Despite the socio-economic crisis in Nicaragua, Maria Isabel managed to increase Nicahat's sales by 22%, in one year.
In 2020, Maria Isabel continued her journey using digital marketplaces and web shops. She chose the most convenient payment and logistic solutions and applied innovative digital marketing techniques to boost Nicahat's online sales.
One of Maria's greatest achievements so far is her online store on Etsy, with support from ITC and APEN, the Nicaraguan trade promotion agency.
Her store opened in March 2020 when COVID-19 had just become widespread, helping her surmount the crisis. From March to May, unsurprisingly Nicahat suffered a drastic decrease in sales:
'If I had not been prepared to sell online, I would have been forced to close the business; however, the training and tools provided by the project helped us cope.'
The ITC project is funded by the European Union and implemented in collaboration with SIECA and local partner institutions. For more information, visit: ecomConnect