Tell Me Why . . .
A Monthly Blog by Founder Bob Graham
I write about helping low-income businesswomen in Guatemala to make more money and create prosperity. Join me as I explore topics about leveling the playing field for women in business. What works? What doesn’t? Why is investing in women just about the best investment on the planet?
This month’s blog is HOW HIGH IS UP?
Namaste has worked with more than 3,500 women microentrepreneurs in Guatemala over the last eight years. Of these, 7% were classified as extremely poor, as their families were living on less than $1 per day per household member. Almost all the rest were labeled as “working poor”, living in very vulnerable economic conditions and unable to sustain shocks such as personal or family health issues, weather disasters, changes in marital status, extortion, and robberies. The women on average were earning $247 per month when they began their Namaste training – squarely in the so-called lower class. Now, the question is: how high is up for those 3,500 women?
WHO ARE THOSE 3,500 WOMEN?
To provide some context, consider that the average woman was 42 years old, had two children under the age of 15, had a fourth-grade education and had been in business for seven years. One out every four of the women was living without running water in her house. Complicating the challenge of boosting the women’s business income, 25% of them were illiterate and 24% of the women needed to receive their training in either K’iche or Kaqkichikel as opposed to Spanish. What happened with those 3,500 women? Five out of every eight successfully completed their work with Namaste and saw their income rise, on average, from that $247 a month to $515 – an increase of 109%! (Most of the other three women were defeated – at least temporarily – by those health, family, weather and other vulnerabilities mentioned earlier.)
(A word about all of these numbers, demographics, and averages. We obtain them by employing Qlik, a leading business intelligence reporting system in conjunction with a database
custom made for us by Tenmast Software. This package gives us a powerful tool for managing our services to women microentrepreneurs; the components were donated by Qlik and
HOW BIG THE BOUNCE?
The bounce to $515 a month put these women at the very cusp of what the Guatemalan National Survey of Living Conditions terms a “middle class” income. For most of the women and
their families, it has been a dream come true! So, is that how high up is? Not really – about 15% of the women climbed to an income of $1,000 a month – solidly middle class and important contributors to society. And – hang on to your shoes as you’re likely to jump out of them – Namaste has had more than three dozen women skyrocket her annual net income to $20,000 and beyond!
THE THREE DOZEN – OUR 1%
What does it take to get to earnings that seem stratospheric to most of the women we meet? What characteristics do the women have in common? Is there a unifying factor such as the type of business, or years in business, or educational levels, or family situation, or geography, or amount of loan, or what? Ah, for that we need to do a deep data dive and examine each woman and her business one by one. And for that, we have just initiated the use of a new system donated by Qlik called Qlik Sense, a self-service data visualization tool that allows us to compare and evaluate dozens of prime data points. I will bring you the results of that data dive next month in a blog entry called “How High Is Up – Part Two”.
Blog Outreach Request
Do You Have a Question?
I’m looking for stimulating and challenging Questions! Send me one and I will send you an answer, either via email or by publishing it with my thoughts on the Tell Me Why . . . website.
I am especially interested in your questions about Namaste and its work with women micro entrepreuners in Guatemala and about women’s economic empowerment generally. I will also entertain questions about Guatemala, a country I first visited in 1973.
And, guess what! If I publish your question on our website, I’ll send you a free copy of my book, 50 – 50 at 50, my story deciding at age 50, to devote 50% of my money, time and energy to helping others.
Qlik sense information will be definitely interesting in order to know data points. I will wait for your next blog. -Part two. –
Thanks, Armando. We will have fun with QlikSense!
This is incredible information Bob, a wonderful way to measure making a difference in the lives of the women and their families that your program trains. Many thanks to the QlikSense people for their contribution!
Thanks for the encouragement, Mary!
You are such an amazing human being doing fantastic work. Thank you Bob!
Thanks for the encouragement, Carin!
Great blog, Bob! The stars are of course exciting to hear about (because we want more stars) but I would be interested to know if the data shows what’s the best route to the “$515-a-month” club. Also how can those woman get over the cusp so that Namaste participants build a sustainable middle class in their communities?
Hello James, yes the data does provide essential guideposts to both of your questions. Thanks in no small part to the amount of information in our Prosper Database, we can see that the women earning the highest profits have storefront businesses, live in the Boca Costa region in Guatemala, are native K’iche speakers, are literate and have been in business for four or more years. Interestingly, years of schooling is not a significant factor. The women work full-time and have a small number of children. Recently we decided to add another 50 women to our training program, and we used this information, along with other data points, to select a specific geographic area and to create an ideal client profile for the recruits. We use a QlikSense app for diving into the relationships between all of our data points and find it to be a powerful tool in our never-ending quest to help women make more money (which, of course, they will invest in their children and their communities).