Recipe for Success
After eight years of cooking pre-processed beans, Alejandra Muñoz, of Gracias, Lempira, found herself at a dead end. "The customers returned the product, saying it was rotten,” she said. “I could not stand the losses, week after week I boiled processed beans and I couldn’t understand why they were ruined.”
Knowing she needed to change her business model, Alejandra sought support from ACS-USAID. Project technicians connected Alejandra with fresh bean suppliers to improve the quality of her raw materials. They also helped Alejandra access new equipment such as a pressure cooker, a gas stove, and packaging materials to streamline production and meet market specifications.
The new equipment and reliable high-quality supply, along with technical training in good manufacturing practices provided by ACS, helped Alejandra reduce her processing time from 15 hours to 4 hours and cut out waste. Her sales increased from $148 (L.3,500) a month to more than $1,900 (L.45,000) a month.
"Customers say that my beans taste better because of better grain quality and better cooking methods with the gas stove," she explained. "With ACS [USAID], my sales went way up."
The new processing equipment also cuts out the dangerous smoke her old wood stove gave off. “I used to not sleep because I was cooking beans for 15 hours, plus the smoke kept my children up coughing,” she said.
Alejandra is thrilled by her new success and is committed to continuing to expand her business, Frijoles Lempira. She’s already purchased additional equipment with her expanded profit, and was able to access a loan to purchase a vehicle for easier distribution.
Another important aspect of her business is its social impact. Now that she has a steady stream of customers and a better quality product, Alejandra is able to pay her bean suppliers higher prices than average market value. And she continues to expand, employing four full-time workers and sourcing from project-supported sugarcane and cilantro farmers.
"A woman who sells baleadas told me, ‘I keep going because I see Alejandra working hard.’ I want to show others that women can be successful."