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?


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
Tenmast. )



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!



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.