When women work, change happens! In our continuing celebration of International Women’s Day, we are featuring a long-time fair trade friend Teresa Hendricks, the founder of Lucia’s Imports. Since 2005, she has worked side by side with Guatemalan artisans and built long-lasting relationships built on mutual respect. Artisans earn a living wage and thrive in a region where there are few opportunities. This collaborative spirit rooted in cultural tradition empowers them to think creatively and develop products that are not only modern and functional, but embrace traditional Mayan designs.
What inspired you to start Lucia’s Imports and work with artisans in Guatemala?
My travels to Mexico in high school and college had a huge impact on me. I saw firsthand how many people around the world did not have the advantages and opportunities that we do. I was also inspired by the beautiful handicrafts. During graduate school, I went to Guatemala to study Spanish. When I left there, I knew I had to go back and work with the artisans. I went back and lived there 18 years before I returned to the Kentucky to start Lucia’s Imports.
How is Lucia’s Imports organized?
We work with many different artisan groups. Many can work from home, especially our jewelry makers who are women. Working from home allows them to tend to the house and children while working. We also work with groups that are organized as co-ops or are family run workshops.
We know that every business has had to pivot during the pandemic. How has COVID impacted the way the artisans work?
It has been a scary time for all, but fortunately our textile artisans were able to pivot production and design from making purses and accessories to making face masks. We were able to provide them with more work than before. This allowed us to continue ordering other products to keep our other artisans working.
When women work, the impact of the investment is greatly multiplied. What benefits or positive changes have you seen in the communities where the artisans work and live?
More disposable income creates more opportunities and cash inflow in the local economies. Women tend to prioritize education. We see more and more children going to school and eventually we will see them going to college. There will be a generational shift.
We love your commitment to empowering others. What advice would you give to women and girls who are interested in getting involved in causes they are passionate about?
Follow your heart and not fear.
What woman artisan has had the biggest impact on you?
Maria, one of our jewelry artisans confided in me and my Guatemalan manager that her husband was drinking and had another woman pregnant. My heart broke. Many of these women are uneducated and have no way to support themselves. We have been working with her and now she has other women working with her. She named her daughter Teresita. They will always have a place in my heart. During the pandemic she would send me messages, “Dona Teresa do you have any more work for me?” We would order jewelry and holiday ornaments just to keep them working. They are always so grateful which continues to be a driving force for me.