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María Pacheco is the founder of Wakami, a fashion-accessory social business connecting rural communities with global markets. This connection is achieved through a system that allows female entrepreneurs to generate income and sustained prosperity in rural communities of Guatemala and of other countries facing similar challenges. Wakami has recently placed third among the 27 best social businesses of the world in the Chivas The Venture competition.
The Wakami fashion accessories are entirely handmade, following ancestral Mayan weaving techniques, and are exported to 20 countries. Currently, these products are being produced by almost 500 women belonging to 20 communities of Guatemala. The income generated by the producers and business owners translates into formal education for their children (especially for girls) and a better nutritional status, both of which being the key issues of the country.
María served as a consultant to both private businesses and governmental institutions on the implementation of her Inclusive Business methodology to connect rural communities to global markets. Her objective has always been to provide market access to vulnerable communities of Guatemala as a way to transform cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity.
María was a member of the team leading the design of the “Economic Development from the rural areas” 60-million-dollar loan, granted to Guatemala by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank and implemented by the Ministry of Economy. This loan allowed more than 300 rural businesses to access global markets. María also partnered with the United Nations Foundation, Chemonics/USAID and other institutions to implement the Inclusive-Business Methodology.
In addition, she was the Executive Director of the Chorti Project for the fiber industry and, the Sacalá Project for the wood industry and owner of the CAUQUE organic farms.
A Universidad del Valle Biology graduate, María was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship to attend the Agriculture Masters Degree at Cornell University.
She has co-created the Guatemalan chapter of the Vital Voices Central American Network and she is also part of the Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Insititue.
Beginning in 2003, María has actively participated in Guatemalan organizations such as AGEXPORT, AGER, CENTRARSE and served as a FUNDESA Director.
In 2007 María received the “Vital Voices Washington Global Economic Development” award and, many more, such as: the DVF Award from the Diller - von Fustenberg Foundation, as one of the 5 women of the world who impulse positive change especially for women; the Stephan Schmidheiny award for Innovation in Latin America; the INCAE Challenge Award, as one of the new voices of innovation in business education in the region. She was nominated by Revista Estrategia y Negocios, a Central American and Caribbean business magazine, as one the top-3 influential women on Central America.
In 2017 Maria got the Most Powerful Women award by Goldman Sachs and Fortune Magazine. She is a Fellow of the second class of the Central America Leadership Initiative and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.