The Little Market co-founders, Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla, visit with artisans at Precious Hands.
The Little Market is a mission-driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit, fair trade shop dedicated to empowering women and underserved populations in all corners of the globe, from the United States and Guatemala to Bangladesh and Rwanda. We ethically purchase artisan-made goods — supporting dignified, safe income opportunities and working to break the cycle of poverty. Advancing women’s economic autonomy is at the core of our mission, and we recognize that when women thrive, their families and communities at-large thrive.
This past August, we were grateful to come together with supporters and activists in our community for our first in-person event in nearly 18 months. Every purchase, donation, event, and sponsorship contributes to our mission and helps to expand our impact. We are thankful to our sponsors for their support and advocacy. Today, we are spotlighting Zacapa Rum and its master blender, Lorena Vásquez, and highlighting what it means to be a woman entrepreneur in Guatemala.
Meet Zacapa Rum + Lorena Vásquez
Despite being a master blender for 35 years, Lorena Vásquez is still a rarity in the spirit industry. Armed with a degree in chemistry and clear that her passion and strength lay in “the aromas,” she joined Zacapa as a quality control specialist when she was just 28 years old. She was soon discussing ideas with her boss about how to improve the blend, and she’s been a changemaker at Zacapa ever since.
Zacapa Rum was a generous sponsor of The Little Market’s Summer Event.
Lorena broke a path in a traditionally male-dominated industry and has spoken about how, in her early days, men were puzzled by, and even dismissive, of her expertise. These experiences shaped her commitment to making Zacapa a place that includes and welcomes women employees. Lorena shares The Little Market’s passion for empowering the most underserved women and she found ways to support local women artisans in Guatemala who now make the traditional, woven palm bands found on every single bottle of Zacapa No. 23 and Edición Negra rum.
Exploring Entrepreneurship in Guatemala
These opportunities are extremely important in a country with high levels of poverty and gender inequality.
- Women in Guatemala have the lowest rates of labor market participation in Latin America, contributing to high levels of poverty among women. In rural areas, only 28 percent of women are employed, compared to 89 percent of men.1
- Where women are employed, they earn less than men. In 2015, women in the informal sector earned 30 percent less than men, with indigenous women earning the least of all.2
- Nearly 10 percent of all women who work are domestic workers and at high risk of harassment and poor working conditions. Most domestic workers earn far less than the national minimum wage.
- Just 37 percent of women are participating in the formal economy in Guatemala.4
- Gender gaps have an impact on nearly all aspects of Guatemalan society. This affects women’s participation in the formal economy and ability to run businesses, their access to resources and financing, their property ownership rights, and their ability to become leaders politically and socially.
Making a Difference
We have been honored to work with Zacapa Rum and appreciate their like-minded mission of creating job opportunities for women working toward financial independence. The Little Market is committed to creating economic opportunities for the most underserved and marginalized women, and we work with several artisan and producer groups in Guatemala, helping them gain dignified hours of work, including a living wage. From 2019 to 2020, we helped provide over 2,000 hours of dignified work to Guatemalan artisans. 5
Based in Panajachel, Solola, Maya Traditions empowers more than 100 talented artisans and weavers preserving traditional techniques including backstrap loom weaving, earning fair wages, and participating in skill development and educational opportunities.
Working with women across the western highlands, Mayan Hands is dedicated to creating economic and educational opportunities while women build their careers and preserve unique cultural traditions.
Precious Hands supports talented women weavers as they create, design, market, and sell beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces. Each one in our collection is handmade and repurposed from a huipil blouse, a traditional garment in Guatemala.
ProTeje connects with artisan women preserving weaving techniques unique to their communities while earning fair wages.
Artisan Maria Ana shows her beautiful crafts at Mayan Hands.
Thank you to Zacapa Rum and all of the women entrepreneurs in Guatemala who inspire us each and every day.
1 “USAID/Guatemala Gender Analysis, final report September 2018.” United States Agency for International Development. USAID. Web. September 14, 2018. Accessed August 20, 2021.
4“Women in Guatemala.” United States Agency for International Development. USAID. Web. September 2019. Accessed September 26, 2021.
5 This period covers July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. This figure was calculated with the aid of a proxy and using data collected from each artisan and producer group specific to its technique and production time.