Martin connects the camera to the trinocular microscope so his client can see the water damage inside his mobile phone. No amount of rice in a bowl will fix that. When a phone takes a dive in this Venezuelan neighborhood, folks know where to go. Martin has been repairing phones since he was 12.
When Martin was 16, he opened a mobile phone/small electronics repair business inside his family’s home. At this time, the Venezuelan economy was spiraling due to the plummeting price of oil and skyrocketing inflation. When Martin finished high school, he went to another Venezuelan region to study computer engineering at a university and work for a local phone company. Then, the COVID-10 pandemic hit, and Martin’s life imploded.
First, the phone company where he worked went bankrupt. Shortly after, his university closed even though Martin had already completed seven semesters of study. Martin returned home to Zulia, where COVID was ravaging the region, already plagued by water and electricity shortages and a failing hospital system.
A Little Support Goes a Long Way
People often know what they need. They just need a little support to get there. Determined and resilient, Martin started repairing phones again. He was running his business partially out of his family’s home and partially out of a storefront in a local mall when our community of peacemakers met him.
Martin joined our jobs creation program, which invests in entrepreneurs and offers a years’ worth of personalized coaching to make sure small businesses thrive. Thanks to a small business grant you provided, Martin moved his phone repair store into the mall full-time last July, which allowed him to expand his customer base. He also invested in equipment such as the trinocular microscope to specialize in repairing water-damaged phones. He added a camera so he could teach his customers what water damage does to phones and how to avoid it.
During his one-to-one coaching sessions, Martin focused on marketing to grow his business. His next purchase was a banner for his store so people could easily find it in the mall, and he could build brand awareness. Right now, he is working on a social media strategy to leverage Facebook and Instagram to grow his business by reaching a younger audience. He also plans to make videos sharing technology tips, which he’ll share on Instagram Reels.
Over 7 Million Gone
Since Venezuela’s economic collapse began in the last decade, over 7.2 million people have left their homes, communities, and country to set up new lives and help those at home survive. Over 29% of Venezuelan households rely on money from abroad for survival. Those who leave risk their lives crossing the Darien Gap and end up at Mexico’s southern border, waiting for legal permission to continue north, where they hope to find jobs. Recently, a caravan of migrants, including many Venezuelans, has left Tapachula in protest over the many months they’ve been detained in southern Mexico without the ability to legally work or receive the humanitarian support they need to survive.
Investing in local entrepreneurs in Venezuela is the difference between being able to stay or having to leave. That’s why our community of peacemakers invested in six new small businesses in 2022, of which five are still running. In addition to Martin’s mobile phone repair business, there is a sweets and cake shop, a barbershop, a tutoring business, and a sewing business. Let’s meet the entrepreneurs.
Ricardo owns and runs a sweets and cake shop, so he no longer has to walk his homemade candies from store to store.
Marcos’s barbershop is named Kaizen, which means continuous improvement in Japanese and is a personal ethos. As the sole breadwinner in his family, the barber shop enables Marcos to support his mother, father, grandmother, and younger brother because his father cannot work.
Although she is 75 years old and worked for more than 30 years in education, Maya’s pension is close to worthless thanks to hyperinflation. After opening a tutoring business, she is able to support herself as she helps students catch up on what they missed during the pandemic.
Sara started a sewing business where she repairs and designs clothes. Her daughter, a university art student, helps out with the designs, giving the shop a modern flair.
Not every entrepreneur we invest in succeeds, but the vast majority do. Their businesses are a lifeline, giving them agency and strengthening their communities. It is humbling to think how each entrepreneur already had what they needed to open their businesses–except for a small financial investment. That’s where our community of peacemakers–you, our program officers working on the ground, and the entrepreneurs creating livelihoods–come in. By supporting young entrepreneurs who have talent and skills but no equipment, who have experience but no supplies, we are investing in people so they don’t have to leave their homes. You can invest in them too by making a donation. Sign up and stay informed as our work grows together with Search for Common Ground. Show your support by sharing this possible.