A Digital Platform to Enhance an Equitable Marketplace

Vulnerable artisans learn to connect with enterprises for fair commercial transactions that increase their income and improve their lives.

Photo of Carolina Nieto
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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Carolina Nieto Cater

Initiative's representative date of birth

March 28th, 1956

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Mexico

Where are you making a difference?

In several states of México: Puebla, Zacatecas, Guerrero, Edo. de México, Hidalgo, Chiapas.

Website or social media url(s)

www.somosvia.com Facebook: somosvia Linkedin: somosvia Instagram: somosvia

When was your organisation founded?

February 2003

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $1k - $10k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Through a website for women starting their businesses, we learned that women in cities usually look for products to sell, and women who produce are far away in communities without markets. We started to connect them but products were not suitable for the market, so we started a program to train producers, mostly artisans in this vulnerable communities to reach market standards and create their businesses. As we reached the market, we realized that businesses and designers needed to change their commercial conditions to include these vulnerable providers into their value chain. After 15 years we have reached this point, connecting businesses in vulnerable communities to businesses in cities.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Women artisans in vulnerable communities had no education to set fair prices for their products, generally losing money as they sold them. They had no profits and savings, and they gradually lost the capacity to continue with production and sales. They never consider their time and investment, they only charge for materiales involved in production. This circle reproduces poverty as they continue producing the same without a salary.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We train communities of women for three years, to create their business and to be part of the world, teaching them to produce high quality, modern products to be sold in markets who will pay for the value. They set costs than include materials, production time, general expenses and profits. The calculate production time to set their production capacity for clients. We connect them to the market through a platform where businesses can see their abilities and products and connect with them. Women learn to use e-mail, whatsapp to connect to clients, and use the internet to enhance abilities for design. We have set a system for costs that we use with every designer or enterprise who works with artisans, validating all for fair payment and no exploitation. Artisans learn to negotiate and set commercial conditions to be able to sell in the market, and enterprises become close to community reality offering softer commercial conditions. We also help designers who work with artisans, to plan and launch their project to be successful, coordinating production to reach delivery times. We are launching a movement for fair payment to artisans, where we will enhance public policies.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Most projects directed to artisans are focused on production. Some designers are now working with communities to produce with them, but they do not train them to build their business, they only pay for production. Other NGOs help communities to create products but usually they do not have a business mentality to bring them to market standards. Our approach seeks to bring artisans to create their businesses and sustain them on their own after 5 years, so they do not depend on us or government to sell and have steady income. We educate but we are not a school, we help them through the complete circle to assure success in the very long term.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Some artisans develop skills to produce for other businesses, not with finished products but with well paid abilities that add to products integrated by other business. They become providers but organized as a business.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Artisans learn to produce articles that go with fashion and market tendencies, so they can innovate continuously to stay in the market. They use internet to understand life styles in the world, in cities, learning to respond to their need with their abilities. We teach them to be autonomous after 5 years so they do not depend on other organizations to be successful. We measure their progress through sales, steady income for each artisan, economic growth and improvement of life in their families.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

As women learn to cost their products including production time, materials, general expenses and profit, they also learn to save and plan for their future. They usually save the profit of their production, until they decide to distribute it among them or use it for buying equipment. Some decide to use for social purposes in the community. Some of them have saving boxes where they save as they receive regular income.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

When artisans are included in the platform to connect to businesses, their income doubles and triples, since they start selling at fair prices and regular purchases. They not only receive a steady salary, they can also afford general expenses and save through profits. As they learn finances for their business, they learn to plan for their future and save. Some of them participate in saving boxes.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We have some organizations in México who offer education to vulnerable communities. Most of them have workshops, programs and mentoring, although most programs are offered in vulnerable communities around poverty circle in cities. We go to low poverty so communities are isolated and far from cities. We commit to results going from education to commercial relationships, assuring sales and income as part of our mission. We have not found an organization that works with the full process. They cover parts of the process.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have trained 1,100 women in 30 communities across 7 states of México. Today, we connect 16 communities of artisans to 11 enterprises who include them in their production chain or who buy from them, through our Platform Somos Via, created in 2016. We have facilitated growth for 8 designers who have built their business on hand made products, increasing income to communities. We have started a movement for fair payment with participation of enterprises, non-profit organizations and universities. We have increased income for each artisan from $50US a month to $120 monthly. Our platform is becoming a reference for businesses who need to demonstrate that they do not exploit as they produce with communities.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We continue to receive funding to train communities of artisans. This funding goes to the 3 to 5 year program. We are now seeking funding for the whole platform, so we can assure income to every artisan who is includes. We sell through a catalog for corporations, so we generate income to sustain the platform and for artisans who elaborate products. We offer experiences for corporations where artisans get to know them and corporations become sensitive to artisans realities. We develop producers for businesses who need them, assuring quality, efficiency and communication to establish commercial relationships based on trust. All of these services help to increase income to sustain both, the non-profit and the platform.

10. Team

Carolina Nieto, CEO, full time. Diana Vitte, Chief of Operations, full time. Ximena Silva, Designer and Commercial Director Marcela Salazar, Funding and Resource Development Emilienne Limón, Sales and Commercial Relationships Georgina Morán, Community facilitator Fernanda Arreche, Administrator We have a team of instructors, specialized on diverse subjects. We have a methodology that is all written and easy to reproduce, so we are ready to grow.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

. To start this process, artisans receive, through courier service, the materials to be embroidered and a technical datasheet to be followed in order to do the first sample. Artisans are trained to read instructions, so they produce the first sample and send it back for approval. This may happen a couple of times until design is clearly defined and approved. Then production starts. Once a dress is made it can be reproduced many times with a lot less work. Artisans send finished work back to Mexico City, through courier service. Somos Vía supervises deliveries, closes transaction through invoicing and receiving payment. Once payment is done, artisans get paid through the local bank. Artisans who are already constituted as a business, send invoice and receive payment. Some artisans are in the process of becoming a formal business, so we pay them in a special category.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Monitoring Impact
  • Board Development
  • Marketing Strategy, Design
  • Brand Development

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Foundation or NGO grants 65%

Earned income 35%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Funding from alliances with whom we have accomplished our goals in developing communities of artisans. We sill be funding development of 4 communities every year to be ready for the market. “Experiences” in communities, working directly with Rutopía (touristic agency) and Air B&B to promote and organize these trips to our communities. Corporative Catalogue to sell products from communities to enterprises. We had very good results for Christmas so this year we are offering a catalogue for all kind of events through the year. We will host two events where we will gather artisans with designers, to promote products but also position our project so many more designers and companies work with communities. We are exploring the possibility of offering new services for companies to develop providers not farther than 100kms, as they want to become more sustainable.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?


1.  Increase the amount of communities that are certified to sell through the platform Somos Vía, adding new products and techniques. We have started transferring our methodology to other organizations so they are ready to prepare and certify communities.

2.  Assuring a regular income to all of the communities who participate in the platform and growing their capacity for sales.  These will be enhanced by events, experiences and sales of products.  We are generating alliances to strengthen connections with communities and growing our base of companies who will produce with them.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

A woman trained to be a business woman learns to take decisions and own of their life.  They do not to expect others to solve their problems, they are empowered to face challenges, and be leaders, for their teams and the community.  Women learn to use the computer and communicate with the world, their reality changes, they become a voice in their communities.  They learn to travel, know other realities, understand the world and the market. They are ready to face many more challenges.  A woman that goes through our 5 year Program becomes a changemaker.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Ashoka Fellow since 2004

Finalist in UBS Visionaris Price en 2006.

Winner of Walmart Prize 2007

Finalist in Chivas Reagal Prize 2020.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

Ashoka network has been a great place to find alliances.  We have worked with Ashoka Fellows transferring our methodology, training their communities and participating in new projects to build solutions together.

BLab is a strong network to build alliances with companies who are looking for social impact projects.  Some B Corporations work with our communities to produce hand made products or certify their communities to demonstrate no-exploitation of artisans.  In 2019 we started the Movement for Fair Payment to Artisans, bringing together enterprises, NGOs, designers and universities, to strengthen alliances to transform laws, institutions, commercial culture and responsible consumption.  This network will help us grow and position our platform.


Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

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Attachments (3)

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Agua de Luna, designer of fine jewelry works with artisans.

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Wedding dresses embroidered by artisans. Claudia Toffano, a designer of wedding apparel.

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Community of Artisans who produce for enterprises in México City.

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An extremely important reality in our world today. Those who are disadvantaged can be so easily taken advantage of. I am happy to read you mitigate these effects and provide a stronger salary for those who are working just as hard.