Dinorah De La Rosa sits peacefully at her sewing table. Positioned near the front door so the daylight can illuminate her project, De La Rosa’s sewing table is prominently displayed in the center of the room. Her foot pulses gently on the peddle under the table, bringing the machine to life. Carefully and expertly, she guides the fabric under the needle with one hand. With the other hand, she turns the wheel on the top of the machine. She is focused. She is driven. This is what she loves to do.
In the past, De La Rosa would sew a variety of things, including linen bags to hold sandals she decorated, but recently, De La Rosa concentrates on sewing one thing: colorful cotton bags meant to work as purse organizers. They are rising in popularity in her community in the Dominican Republic, and De La Rosa’s organizers are sold at a local drug store. In fact, she can’t keep up with demand; the bags consistently sell out. It is a success she could not imagine, but with the help of the Buckner Family Hope Center at Eduardo Brito, it has become a reality.
For the last two years, De La Rosa has been involved with the Hope Center, taking a variety of classes. During a sewing class at the Hope Center, a Buckner case manager realized De La Rosa’s talent and helped cultivate that skill. De La Rosa took additional sewing classes at the Hope Center in addition to other training courses.
“She has been eager to learn,” said Maria Brugal, country director for Buckner Dominicana. “Dinorah regularly comes to all the trainings she can and applies that knowledge immediately.”
As part of the Hope Center’s business development plan, Buckner staff try to identify those who show leadership qualities and interest in being an entrepreneur and help them develop those skills to succeed. Hope Center staff knew the purse organizer could be a good opportunity for some of their clients to make a product and be successful since it had the potential to turn into a massive consumer product.
De La Rosa’s work ethic and her interest in starting a business made her the perfect candidate to try and replicate a model the staff purchased. She was able to study the organizer, figure out how it was made and sew her own version of the organizer.
“I make a lot of different things, and I enjoy every part of sewing, so it is a joy to make the purse organizers. I am grateful for this opportunity,” De La Rosa said regarding her recent sewing endeavors.
The Hope Center provided the fabric for the first batch of organizers, and De La Rosa used the profit from selling them to continue purchasing supplies to make more. Without the Hope Center’s help providing the start-up materials, she would not have been able to start this endeavor on her own.
Once De La Rosa made a few organizers, she gave them to the Hope Center to sell to their own community. The product sold so well the Hope Center worked with Farmacias Carol, a drug store with 34 locations on the island, and reached an agreement to sell the organizers in one of their locations.
De La Rosa was excited to learn her organizers were to be sold at Farmacias Carol. To have her work sold in a well-known store was an achievement she never thought she could accomplish before receiving the support and encouragement from the Hope Center.
“I felt very good when I learned where the organizers were to be sold,” De La Rosa said. “I also was very proud, especially when I learned who my first customer was.”
The first person to purchase an organizer from Farmacias Carol was popular TV personality, Jatnna Tavarez. Having access to a wider market has allowed a greater exposure to Buckner Dominica programs and showcases the influence the programs are having on the community.
Every day, De La Rosa sits at her sewing machine and makes about four or five purse organizers, but she still can’t keep up with demand. The organizers are selling so well at Farmacias Carol negotiations are now in place to begin selling them in seven more locations soon. The Hope Center and De La Rosa are working on a marketing plan to better promote and display the product in the stores.
The popularity has created another opportunity for De La Rosa to expand the business by teaching others in the community to sew the organizers and help with production.
“I am happy I can help other people in sewing and will have the opportunity to teach the classes,” De La Rosa said. “This will help me and others in the community to succeed.”
Brugal is confident De La Rosa’s example will inspire other women in the community to work toward their own business goals.
“Dinorah is an example that perseverance and hard work makes things possible,” Brugal said. “She motivates other women because she understands their needs. She is a good connection for us to help reach other women in the community.”
Story and photography by Aimee Freston