Meet a 4e Camino al Progreso Program Graduate
An Interview Edy Ramos Torres, Owner of Bodega San Juan in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima, Peru
Please tell us a little bit about your store.
Edy: I opened my store 28 years ago. It was an idea that came to me, I always saw myself opening a business and serving people – even dreaming about it. The products that I sell the most are sugar, rice, milk, and other daily necessities, as well as products for kids’ school lunches, juices, yogurts and cereal, and things people need at night, like pills and Vicks rub. Right now we have this store, which opens from 6am to 10pm, and a stand at a market. I work alone at the store most of the time, and sometimes one of my nephews helps me. My husband is at the market stand from early morning until early afternoon and then comes to the store to be with me during the evenings.
What convinced you to participate in the 4e Camino al Progreso program?
The young man was very convincing. He explained everything about what the program would cover and what the process would be like, so I decided to attend the first meeting. I really liked what I heard, so I decided not to miss any of them. I hadn’t done a course like this before. I had been invited me to one, but the class was at night, when I had many customers, so I couldn’t go. I liked this schedule because it’s when I’m the least busy and the classes took place close to my store, so getting there wouldn’t take up much time. I could even walk there if I had time, to avoid taking a bus. I also thought it was valuable to get advice on the specific problems of my store, in addition to the general themes presented in class.
What is the most important thing you learned through the 4e program?
To keep an inventory and keep track of what I sell each day, just note it down. It’s different from day to day. For example, on Saturday and Sunday you sell a lot more. This has helped me manage the business better and sell more. I also learned that you can do this yourself – you don’t need to hire an accountant.
I also learned to manage my money with the business in mind. I don’t spend money just to spend it or spend it on other things that aren’t about the business. I always control what I spend when I go shopping. The money that I earn, that I can invest – if it isn’t for the business, then it’s against the business.
I also learned that my business should always be clean and tidy and to be nice to my customers because these two things increases sales.
Have you made any changes in your personal or family life as a result of the 4e program?
The instructor said that life isn’t all about work. He said to see what day of the week you sell the least, and take some time off that day to avoid becoming too stressed. I do take some time off now, sometimes on a birthday, other times around noon I go out for a little while. Last time I went out, I went with my husband to a family get together. Before 4e, I would stay at the shop and my husband would go alone. Sometimes my customers need me and come looking for me, and it bothers them when I am closed. But I also have the right to go out. I also learned this through the program. I feel less stressed now and more happy. But the business is always on my mind. Maybe because I spent so many years keeping it open all the time, it’s hard to stop thinking about how my store is closed.
Tell us about the community leadership project that the 4e program supported you with.
The leadership training was very good. It was further away than the other trainings, and there were people from all over my district. They set us talking about our neighborhoods, our blocks, and how people live, what problems there are, and what we could change. They asked us to write lists and even draw!
In my neighborhood, particularly in my block, there are lots of dogs. People used to let their pets run loose and do their business, which made things very dirty. I got some neighbors together for a meeting and asked them if they would like our block to be clean, like other blocks, and they said they were interested in improving the cleanliness of our block. We had two or three more meetings here at my house, in the afternoons, and we decided on a few rules that we all would follow to keep the block clean. We also had some posters made and hung them up at the beginning, middle and end of the block. We have all kept to the rules and the block is clean now.