Story from the Field: Sweet Success
Every hand you sent in for the 2016 Youth Uplift Challenge counted towards the Bezos Family Foundation's donation to Save the Children’s youth empowerment programs in Nicaragua and Indonesia. This is a story of Yahaira, Martha, and Jorge in Nicaragua, and how their Save the Children program has helped them learn life skill trainings that help their small business thrive.
Six young sweet makers, part of a group of 535 youth from Jinotega and Matagalpa involved in the project Cup of Excellence with Young Entrepreneurs funded in part by the Bezos Family Foundation and promoted by Save the Children, are learning the skills they need to make their small business thrive.
In Mancera, the most remote community in Rancho Grande – 230km from Managua – Yahaira, 16, Martha, 25, and her brother Jorge, 15, are hard at work making chocolates. The candies are in high demand and the young entrepreneurs, who have three other partners, sometimes have to put Martha and Jorge’s mother to work to stay on schedule.
This particular group of six is well on its way to success, but the path has not always been clear. The first test for the partners was to agree on a business initiative. They decided unanimously to take advantage of the raw material around them and use cocoa to make chocolate.
“We pooled money for a sawmill and a hut to house the grinder,” Martha says. “And we’ve recovered that initial investment!” she adds.
The next challenge was learning to make the chocolate.
“At the beginning it was not possible to form the mixture into candies. We had to try different mixtures five or six times until we finally found one in which the milk didn’t curdle and it was possible to make the cocoa balls,” says Martha. The group also had to figure out how to grind a fine enough mixture. “We kept on trying until we nailed it,” says Martha.
Through trial and error, the group discovered the right formula for making the candies and is grateful for the support provided by a chocolate-making expert from Centro de Entendimiento con la Naturaleza (CEN), Save the Children’s local partner tasked with supervising the young people involved in the project. With his help, the group finally got it right.
Every time they made candies, they tasted them to check how they were and also staged tasting sessions, taking batches to the CEN and Save the Children offices to see whether the people there liked them.
“I didn’t have any idea how to make chocolates, and I’ve grown up in the area where most cocoa comes from. But now I know!” says Martha.
The business is succeeding, although they are gradually realizing the need to expand it. “I was at a fair in El Cuá,” Yahaira recalls, “and we sold all of the candies we took there. It was a nice experience.”“We sell the candies in the local stores in the community and we do it by talking to people,” says Jorge. “Luis is responsible for the marketing side of things,” he adds.
The group currently produces 500 candies once a week. “We want to try to make more candies in order to sell more and to have more buyers interested,” Martha says.
Yahaira explains how the group is reinvesting the proceeds back into the business: “The CEN technicians talked to us about how to save in order to buy all the materials and the milk, while also generating savings at the same time,” Yahaira explains.
“I hope the time will come when the business helps me buy some of things for the house,” she adds.
All of the participants have hopes invested in the business and know that it could be an enormous benefit to them in the future.
“You learn more when you are part of something like this,” Yahaira says.
Read more on the Youth Uplift Challenge here.