BY MORGAN LEGEL
Sept. 30 marked the 365th day of Guam Unique Merchandise & Art’s three-year grant for its I Bisinun Måmi program.
The program is rooted in the community and focuses on developing home-based businesses within Guam’s villages.
Monica O. Guzman, executive director of GUMA, said the goal is to foster both village commerce and the relationship of village businesses with each other.
The idea was first brought to the Mayor’s Council of Guam in November 2020, having already received the Administration for Native Americans grant for more than $200,000. The MCOG is “very critical to the success of the program,” Guzman said.
While the first year was mainly spent on outreach, surveys, planning and finalizing the training program, Guzman hopes to launch the pilot program, confined to Dededo, by the beginning of 2022. She and Darlene Sanchez, GUMA’s project coordinator, are meeting with Melissa B. Savares, Dededo’s mayor during November to get more information on the roll-out of the beta testing and pilot program.
“Depending on input, we will determine when we can kick it off,” Guzman said.
This unique program condenses an already-existing, 16-week GUMA program for entrepreneurs, to an eight-hour session. The session would brush broadly on training for the in-home businesses; from there, anyone who participated will have a general idea of what it takes to operate a business.
“The goal for that is if they feel like they want to expand and get deeper,” Guzman said. “They’re always welcome to take our 16-week program.”
In either the eight-week course or the 12-week course, Guzman said it’s important to educate potential entrepreneurs.
“We try to be very flexible with our training because we understand that people who have the idea to open their own business may not have any knowledge on what it takes. We all have personal experience in running a business, so when it comes to the questions and interaction during the training, we try to engage the participants as much as possible”
Meeting with each of the mayors and planning councils was a painstaking process, she said, made longer because of COVID-19. Having met with 17 out of the 19 planning councils, the six-month span seemed to take forever.
“Within that same amount of time, you had people going in for unemployment and pandemic assistance, so we had to navigate around that,” Sanchez said. “Under normal circumstances, it would have been a lot shorter, but we had to work around them and their availability, since it was critical that we got their input.”
In addition to the training, the grant allows for a village-based directory, which will be online and in a smartphone app when it launches. In order to qualify to be listed in the directory, all a business will need is verification from its mayor. The list will be free to both businesses and customers, and a draft is already in the works.
“It’s going to be kind of like Angie’s List,” Guzman said. “The awesome thing about it is you’re going to be aware of who’s in your village, making sure you’re supporting your neighbors.”
GUMA plans to kick-off the directory in Dededo and will invite all the businesses listed to a village trade show that will act as a networking opportunity between businesses, as well as a time for customers to get to know Dededo’s in-home businesses.
“We do recognize that some villages may have more home-based business than others, so we can combine if we need, just to make sure that it works for each village,” she said.
All in all, Guzman said, the best part of GUMA is being able to help small businesses flourish.
“Small businesses are the heart of our economy, so developing these home-based businesses, and the potential for them to expand, that’s what our goal is. Developing more private sector jobs and opportunities for our people.” mbj