Nine entrepreneurs from Latin America attended Milan's international trade fair, where they marketed their goods and built relationships for future trading opportunities. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, was instrumental in organizing the group.
Crowds have already begun to fill Milan's historic Victorio Emanuelle II shopping arcade. People come here from every part of the world to shop. But not this group of entrepreneurs from Latin America. They've come to get a first hand look at the competition and to sell their products. All nine have come with the hope of breaking into this lucrative European market for clothes and textiles. It would be a major breakthrough and could mean success for the poor rural artisans like Dely Surco Coyla.
DELY SURCO COYLA
We produce the same as these but with even more complicated designs, like flowers and other designs typical of our culture.
With assistance from an innovative program called PROMER, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, each of these entrepreneurs has been given an opportunity to bring the best of what their groups produce to Milan's International Fair. This event draws more than two million people from across northern Italy. Waldo Bustamante Pena, coordinator for PROMER, says these people face greater challenges than most.
WALDO BUSTAMENTE PENA
Obviously, they face bigger challenges than other entrepreneur would. The first challenge is that they are very dispersed and isolated in the countryside, which makes it difficult for them to work together to access markets.
The biggest challenge is getting to this level -- outside their communities and countries, selling their goods in lucrative western markets and establishing contacts for the future.
WALDO BUSTAMENTE PENA
At events like these they learn a lot about the real world of business.
So how did members of the group do at the end of the fair? Amazingly well, since Milan is the fashion center of the world. Adrianna from Brazil sold 80 percent of her embroideries, even though her greatest competition was in Milan. Jorge from Colombia sold 95 percent of his silks and made three contacts with Italian companies. Dely and Susana from Peru sold 60 percent of their products, about average for the rest of the group. The most successful participant was Macario from Guatemala. Although illiterate and unable to speak Italian, he demonstrated a special talent and sold all the fabrics he had brought with him. Over the next few years, the PROMER project will continue to help micro entrepreneurs in poor rural communities reach beyond their borders through a number of innovative methods, including an e-commerce web site and business centers that will assist in exporting goods. James Heer prepared this report for the United Nations.