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The Blue & Gray Press | October 16, 2018

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Student Launches Online Business

Student Launches Online Business

By CHARLOTTE RODINA

The University of Mary Washington student-run business Esfuerzo de Amor launched an online platform to sell its products on Friday, Nov. 9. The site is the result of the combined efforts of senior Aaron Leung, international affairs major UMW’s Center for Economic Development and the UMW Bookstore.

Esfuerzo de Amor is run by La Ceiba. The business sells its products, which are made by women in two communities in Honduras, in UMW’s bookstore and at Heritage Gifts in downtown Fredericksburg. Artisans from the communities, La Brisas and Villa, Soleada craft the clutch purses from recycled chip bags and soda labels they find littering the area.

The project was started in 2008 by UMW student Rachel Mason. Mason taught women in Siete de Abril to make the clutches. The artisans now create bracelets, earrings, hairbands, key chains and more.

The project started as a way to decrease the amount of trash burned in the streets of Honduras, but has evolved into a way to help women in poverty. The craftsmen directly receive 70 percent of the profit.

Leung is the project leader for the online website launch. He has been working on the site itself, setting up new contracts with the artisans and negotiating inventory changes that will take place.

Leung explained that, with the launch of the new site, the company will purchase new products and set up contracts with the artisans. These agreements will provide more income stability for the artisans, according to Leung.

“Our program is all about having a mutual relationship with the artisans in Honduras,” said Leung. “There’s no power differential with our relationship with them. We’re open to new ideas and products.”

The official Esfuerzo de Amor website will direct purchases to the bookstore’s website, which will then provide a link back to Esfuerzo de Amor. The bookstore also serves as an inventory storage center for the products.

Dustin Curtis, operations manager at the bookstore, is eager for the launch as well.

“Hopefully, with the amount of web traffic that the bookstore gets with our own online purchases, it will boost and help them out,” said Curtis. “They’re also updating their image, so I think that will help with sales.”

Brian Baker from the Center of Economic Development and Shawn Humphrey, professor of economics, both led and advised Leung in the transition of Esfuerzo de Amor to its online platform. Baker helped Leung with marketing and promotional strategies, while Humphrey assisted with the overall organization of the project.

“The potential for benefit is enormous,” said Baker. “The application experience for the students is ripe with resume-ready opportunities. There should be a line of interest at the door for all of the practical application experience that Esfuerzo de Amor and La Ceiba offer.”