Notebook > Lifestyle
Thomas Beck

Jobs and hope

Lifestyle | Peru Paper is a greeting card business, not a charity, and it's helping women in poverty

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

It's a rough time to start a small business, but Grace Bateman's Peru Paper is on the cusp of success. Peru Paper initially sold online its collection of greeting cards designed and crafted by Peruvian women out of handmade, recycled paper. The next step was to wholesale cards to retailers across the United States, and that's why Bateman was standing at a booth at the big New York International Gift Fair in August.

One afternoon at the fair, storeowners and buyers regularly stopped at her booth, admiring the sample cards and brightly colored sheets of hand-dyed paper. Bateman estimates she landed 35 new accounts during the Fair. Those card orders are providing three months of steady work for the women in Peru. For Bateman it is all about jobs. She headed south in 2005 to volunteer at a mission in Trujillo, Peru. The following year she returned to the United States and got her master's degree in international economic development, focusing on the card-making project she thought would work.

Some of the fair attendees wanted to know if she gives the profits of the business to charity. Bateman was straightforward: No. She does not want to create a charity, because goodwill won't last forever. Instead, she plows profits back into the business, with the goal of creating a market in the United States for the cards so that the Peruvian side of the business can grow and hire more women. Meanwhile, she is frugal, living with her parents and doing consulting work on the side to pay her bills.

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Peru Paper taps into a couple of current trends. Consumers love things that are unique, handmade, eco-friendly, and help alleviate poverty. Bateman's marketing materials tell that story. But she also talks about the way the work changes individual lives. One woman is more hospitable because she used her card earnings to replace a dirt and concrete kitchen floor with tile. Another mother discovered she had design talent. Her son now says of her, "This is what God made you for."

Bateman says she's motivated to work hard because she knows and has seen how jobs can change the way women live and think. Jobs help them see an alternative reality to the existence they've known. Jobs help them believe truths about God that didn't seem possible when surrounded by despair.

She's adept at using Facebook and Twitter to promote her products and tell the company story: "It's easy and free." She can inform her 1,200 Facebook fans about Peru Paper and let them vote on new card designs. She even posts screen shots from Skype conversations with the card makers so that fans get a sense of involvement with the company. She offers the parable of the talents to explain how she thinks about her business. The women in Peru are the talents, "a treasure to be developed."

Bateman says she's had a steep learning curve and on-the-job training. She didn't realize at first how much effort it would take to market the website. But she notes, "I can't just say, 'This is hard. This is scary. I don't want to do it anymore.'" She thinks of her work as a privilege: "I get to do it. . . . If I didn't do it I would probably regret it for the rest of my life."

Missions helper

Robert Carpenter returned from a short-term mission trip with an idea for a website that would help missions leaders better organize their trips and communicate about them before, during, and after completion. He partnered with software developer Caleb Cohoon to develop MissionMakr-a web-based application specially designed to help short-term missions teams through four phases of a trip: Launch, GearUp, Go, and Tell.

The web app uses drag-and-drop widgets, so building a website is fast and easy. It has room for photos, videos, pdfs of volunteer applications, team member profiles, and other useful stuff. Users need a password to access the GearUp and Go phases of the site, and organizers have the option of putting the Tell section behind a wall or not. Churches can set up the Launch phase for free. The site charges $25 for each person whom organizers accept as mission members. The company has a presence on Facebook and a series of information videos on Vimeo. (See MissionMakr.com.)

Hearing Faulkner

Novelist William Faulkner spent two semesters (February-June 1957 and February-May 1958) as writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. More than 28 hours of lectures, readings, and audience question-and-answer sessions recorded during that period are now available online at the Faulkner archives at the University of Virginia (faulkner.lib.virginia.edu/). Two English professors, Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, made the recordings with Faulkner's permission.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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