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USAID strengthens the private sector through technology How one Guatemalan company is creating jobs and keeping people employed during the COVID-19 pandemic

Seventy percent of Guatemalans work for small to medium sized businesses. Now, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, these businesses are being hit hard, leading to many people being suspended from or losing their positions. Along with this, the Guatemalan Government has placed restrictions on the public’s movements to ensure their health and safety. This includes the closure of all non-essential businesses, a daily curfew, and the mandatory wearing of a face mask while in public. One such Guatemalan business, clothing retailer Distefano, is harnessing its production and distribution skills, honed with USAID’s support, to keep their 185 employees working during the pandemic.

Rewind to 2018, the company could hardly keep their popular jeans, chinos, and long-sleeve shirts on the shelves of their stores. Growth was outpacing their capacity to manage production, distribution, and sales. The company was over its head and needed to anticipate to meet customer demand or they would suffer financial consequences.

To improve the management of inventory, USAID’s Creating Economic Opportunities project (CEO) worked with the company to design and implement an inventory management system utilizing artificial intelligence algorithms. The software identifies demand to optimize inventory. This has greatly improved the management of the company's sales, production, and distribution of over 65,000 products.

“Having the products we need at the right time in the right place improves sales, helps us grow, and creates jobs.”- Beatriz Yoc, Human Resources Manager

USAID’s CEO project empowered Distefano to respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic by producing a face mask that helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, addressing a public health requirement in Guatemala, and keeping their staff employed.

“We have the production skills because of the technology that USAID’s Creating Economic Opportunities project funded, so we decided to act during the COVID-19 crisis .” - Kozina, owner and general manager

Currently, their employees are using proper health and safety measures, like physical distancing from one another while working, to produce 3,500 face masks per day, but could increase capacity to 10,000 per day if the need arises. Due to USAID’s support, Distefano is able to quickly and effectively respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic, producing a product that is in demand and making sure their employees continue to be able to provide for their families.

USAID’s Creating Economic Opportunities project (CEO) focuses on private sector-led growth to harness drivers of economic growth, including domestic and international investment. CEO promotes wider access to markets, improves infrastructure, and channels of financing in order to transform local economies and reduce illegal immigration.

Created By
Benjamin Ilka
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Photos by: Distefano