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nilces_familyParticipant Profile: Nilce Corrêa da Silva


• Expanding her product line to connect with markets
• Account and record keeping
• Building up savings to ensure a supply of materials

• Realized her ability to make and sell profitable items
• Gained the support of her husband for her sewing work
• Connected with other entrepreneurs in the community

Nilce is a clear example of the great successes of the Community Empowerment Network's cCLEAR program, as well as some of the lessons to be learned to improve on this Proof of Concept project in the future. In her story, we can see what is achieved by developing the entrepreneurial skills of villagers and what else can be done to ensure that these gains are long-lasting and sustainable.

Nilce, 26, lives in the tiny village of Suruacá with her husband and two children. In the past she has contributed to the family income by working as a cook, and in manioc cultivation and flour production. However, like many cCLEAR participants, Nilce is aware that in order to improve conditions for her family and enable her children to attend regular schooling, she will need a regular, and more substantial, income. Both her mother and father worked long hours growing manioc root and producing flour. Growing up, Nilce saw it was a hard life. With money always tight at home, Nilce herself could not pursue her own dreams of education.

When CEN first began working with Nilce to develop her home-based sewing business in September of 2008, she was low on confidence, had few marketable skills, and had little idea of how she could create her own successful small business. What she did have was a desire to change her circumstances at home and an innate streak of initiative. With these key ingredients, Nilce was able to work with CEN field staff to produce a range of salable products, including crocheted bags and rugs.

After a slow start, Nilce soon began understanding the importance of being attentive to the market's demands. She read magazines and got ideas from other tailors in the region. Within six months she had sold quite a few items, had orders pending, and had organized her supply of materials. Nilce's production insecurity had been replaced by creativity, and, importantly, her family was supportive and proud of her work.

A key challenge for entrepreneurs in small villages like Suruacá is finding a bigger market of customers. Nilce took her products to other communities, and started taking deposits for commission pieces. Beginning to intuitively understand the market economy, Nilce also started to sell tucupi, a local dish made from the manioc root, in Alter do Chão after identifying a potential market. CEN field workers reported that she showed a great deal of independence.

Unlike most of the other participants, though, some of Nilce’s gains have been lost since the end of the project a year ago. She again has difficulty keeping organized production accounts and has lost much of her entrepreneurial drive. Nilce has been forced to spend much of the money she had saved for new materials on medical treatment for one of her children, who had fallen ill — a common problem for working mothers. It was difficult for her to regularly travel the five hours by boat to Santarém to get materials.

CEN Director Bob Bortner said the example of participants like Nilce inspired the group to develop support networks beyond the direct engagement with CEN field workers. "Nilce still has the desire, but she is struggling with coming up with ideas for what products she could make, and what the opportunities are to expand her market. She is missing the regular mentoring and support that she received under the cCLEAR program," he said.

This is why CEN is helping the participants form an entrepreneur group, where cCLEAR program graduates work with less experienced participants to collaborate on production ideas and brainstorm new initiatives. One such collaboration is working on expanding the range and product lines for a mobile selling unit, taking products from one small village to a market of hundreds, or thousands, in other villages and larger rural centers.

Read more cCLEAR Participant Profiles


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