Beyond Borders Series: Business Development in the Peruvian Desert

April 25, 2015

"To strengthen families and communities and work for transformative change" - WGC

This summer, faculty members Dr. JT Norris, associate professor of accounting and Dr. Michael Forrest, professor of business law, traveled to Peru for an immersion trip to conduct business skills workshops with a group of entrepreneurial women in the Pacific coastal city of Chimbote—a desert region roughly 250 miles north of Peru’s capital city, Lima. Women’s Global Connection, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, organized the trip as part of their continuing mission to promote learning and leadership skills of women in disadvantaged parts of the world.

The workshops were organized to benefit Pushaq Warmi (Guiding Women in Quechua), an association of native Peruvians dedicated to giving women of their region the skills, knowledge and inspiration to be successful in their life pursuits. Pushaq Warmi members distinguish themselves as accomplished business professionals in diverse fields such as nursing, teaching and running small shops called "tiendas", who reach out to the community through their own empowerment clinics conducted in impoverished communities of the Peruvian Northern Desert.

At the business skills workshops, Norris demonstrated introductory double-entry bookkeeping and emphasized the importance of keeping accurate financial records. Forrest led interactive discussions on business plan development. Both workshops focused on preparing the Pushaq Warmi members to extend their entrepreneurial efforts into the handicraft business. The women learned key concepts of building organizational capacity, managing their money and marketing techniques to increase the sale of their hand made products—both locally and in the global market. “These women are very talented in taking limited resources and turning them into big ideas,” said Forrest. “They make small, unique handcrafted items, which, with the correct planning and channels, could sell very well in the States.”

The trips have been so successful, Forrest hopes to bring business students along in the future. “It’s a great experience that feeds right into the Mission of UIW,” said Forrest. “For students, the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and simultaneously apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom will be a very unique experience.”

Through the dedication of Forrest and Norris, a symbiotic relationship is being built between the H-E-B School of Business & Administration and the Pushaq Warmi women, who not only learn from, but also teach faculty new ways to view business. The women share their own wisdom, their unique cultural perspective and particularly the fiber art crafts they produce. “As business faculty, it’s great to witness and play a role in the industriousness of these women,” said Norris. Forrest is set to return to Chimbote in December 2015.

A sampling of the products produced by the Pushaq Warmi can be seen on their Facebook page

This article is part of the Beyond Border Series, focusing on the international efforts and accomplishments of H-E-B School of Business & Administration faculty and students. 

Did you like this article? Find others like it in the Beyond Borders Series: Journey in the Unexpected