Chureca Chic

Chureca Chic: Ethically Chic, Recycled to Empower Women

Managua, NicaraguaManagua, Nicaragua
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We run a paper recycling workshop in the largest rubbish dump in Central America. We give women the opportunity to earn an income creating paper jewellery and stationary whilst attending a compulsory education programme. We sell the products and aim to be self funding by 2016.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

WHAT IF a necklace could change communities’ futures?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Nicaragua women form 60% of Nicaragua's population yet 45% of them do not finish school as girls. They are therefore more likely to enter the informal labour market, unable to access secure jobs. Additionally, in Nicaragua there is also no formal way of recycling. We’re working to tackle - waste - unemployment - barriers faced by girls to get an education

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The solutions: - recycle - create income opportunities - empower women to become agents of change in their communities regardless of their educational background. Our workshop combines all of these solutions in the following manner: provide an income opportunity for women recycling scrap paper to create a product that we sell to run our education programmes. The income opportunity is coupled with this compulsory education programme that focuses on literacy and social skills to empower women. If you want a child to get an education, give their mother one
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Maria is a single mum of 4, she is also running from an abusive husband. Being illiterate she was unable to find a job. She joined the programme last year and can now read & write and, in her own words, “feels safe and like I have a family”. Soon she’ll be ready to graduate and look for a stable job. We recognise that income alone can't solve long-term problems. With our model we are addressing the systematic problem of lack of education leading to a lack of income and earning potential. Women enrolled in our programme receive an income making the Chureca Chic paper products. They are also enrolled in our compulsory education programme which includes: Literacy, Computing, Child & Family Health, Nutrition and Social Skill Development.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

After completing our program, 95% of participants successfully enter the labour market, securing stable jobs that they previously lacked the education and skills for. Our programs provide 100% literacy rates. Over 150 children go to school because their mothers are getting an education. Our impact extends beyond the non-profit sector to redefine women’s education and women's opportunities in their community. As an organization we are working towards self-funding by 2016. We aim to do so through the sales of the recycled Chureca Chic products. In 2013 with the launch of the Chureca Chic label, we increased income from product sales by over 300% compared to the same period the previous year. The long term goal is to replicate our workshop and train women to run them and connect them up to international markets to create a self-funding training program and sustainable women-led entities.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We are transitioning from a charity to a social enterprise. Ultimately we see Chureca Chic providing places of employment for women. Over the next two years we will further connect our products to international markets, to make our current model financially sustainable. We are working with international designers to create design led products that satisfy the standards of quality and design of our target markets. The model is scalable and we have based our sales plan in markets that can command fair wages and fuel our sustainable model that we aim to replicate in Nicaragua and Central America.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Ultimately we aim to become sustainable through product sales as previously mentioned we’re working with designers to better our products. But we are not solely relying on expanding our sales channels. We are working on partnerships to reduce running costs. For example a partnership with the Ministry of Education to provide teachers for the literacy program and a CSR program to cover the costs of our social workshops.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Recycling paper is not a new idea, nor are women’s empowerment groups. However, in Nicaragua we are pioneering a model that is moving beyond the status-quo cooperative labour practices with an integrated curriculum building women’s skills and employability. Our differentiating goal is to be sustainable in 3 areas: financial, social and environmental. We have created a pioneering model based on needs defined by the communities we work with - it is not just a market-based solution to poverty.

Founding Story

In 2009 I set up a project as a solution to the social problem of unemployment and inequality for women. In 2013 I created a label to represent the social project. In doing so I created a different voice to communicate what we are doing and in just 8 months we had more support for Chureca Chic than the charity Earth education Project had gathered over 4 years. Consequently we made more sales and received constant press in Nicaragua. I see Chureca Chic not just as a stepping stone for beneficiaries but as a launch pad for us to showcase a sustainable model that is already creating a large impact. This brand can help change behavior on a social level and also as part of the fashion community to promote clear, transparent and social fashion.


3 board members in the UK including a former Nicaraguan ambassador, guide the project. We are a team of 3 fulltime staff. The 2 staff in Nicaragua have built the project with me from the ground up and are currently learning English. In April I was awarded a scholarship to study a diploma in international commerce and fashion, this provided me with the the practical skills needed to achieve our goals. We are looking for expert support in sales
About You
Earth Education Project
About You
About Your Project
Organization Name

Earth Education Project

How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, Managua

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Managua

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Customers.


Waste and Packaging, Sustainable Sourcing, Opportunities for Women.

Audience: Who have you identified as your customer/recipient groups and do these groups value your solution for different reasons? How do you engage different customer/recipient groups to deliver your solution?

Our recipient group is socially-excluded women who lack the education to find a stable job. We provide an opportunity to earn an income recycling paper and participate in an education programme. Upon completion of the programme we help them find a job.
Chureca Chic clients are women keen to support ethical fashion but want unique pieces. With designers we are creating design lead products to launch at London Fashion Week 2014. We aim for 20 international boutiques/online stores to stock us by December

Scaling the solution: How would the prize money and publicity help you to achieve your objectives over the next two years?

Our mission is to achieve sustainability as an NGO as well as for our beneficiaries. We have helped 50 women in 4 years break the cycle of poverty, while last year we launched a label which has increased our income through sales by over 300%. This would be an opportunity to promote the project on an international platform and fulfill our goal of being self-funding by 2016, in turn allowing further expansion of the program. Publicity, funding and training will also specifically support the following goals:
- Strengthen our training programs
- Build an industry-level design program to offer designer-quality products
- Help us reach new markets
- Expand CSR partners to create established places of employment for women leaving the program

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered

I worked for NGOs in Costa Rica, Venezuela and Nicaragua effectively administering projects to achieve the desired outcome. In 2009, I started EEP with $600 and have since fund-raised over £100,000, building strong social programmes and commercial channels. I am forming partnerships with designers and companies for new models of support.

Are you are eligible to attend the Accelerator event in Cambridge and subsequent events in London, UK in January, 2015?


Will you require a visa to enter the UK?

Are you are a current Unilever employee?