The Sanitation Shop
Water For People takes a market-based approach to sanitation. Rather than provide toilet hand-outs, we support entrepreneurs to provide sanitation products and services. This approach is more sustainable, and creates jobs and lifts local economies along the way.
After graduating college with a degree in administration, Alexandra was at a crossroads. Her parents owned a big hardware store in Cascas, Peru that was a fixture in the community. She couldn’t decide whether to join their business or take a risk and branch out on her own.
Alexandra came across a local contest for young entrepreneurs to submit a business idea to earn seed money to start out, and she knew she had to enter. This was her opportunity to take a risk and establish herself as an entrepreneur.
But first, she needed a business idea.
"I asked, ‘What are we lacking here in Cascas?’" recalls Alexandra. She had lived her entire life in Cascas and knew the community well. The first need that came to mind was bathrooms. She knew at least 20% of families throughout the district didn’t have safe sanitation services.
"I have worked at my parent’s store since I was 12, so I already had knowledge about sanitation materials," said Alexandra.
Armed with that knowledge, she quickly got to work creating her business plan for a hardware store that would focus exclusively on sanitation and bathroom products.
"Some people were discouraging me, saying, ‘You’re not going to be able to sell these types of products," Alexandra shares. "But I said, ‘No, everybody wants to improve their bathrooms. There is a market for this.’"
The contest had 74 participants, and Alexandra was one of only 11 winners. She was granted just over $1,500 USD to start her business, and she got to work quickly.
"I used the money to invest in all of the materials – toilets and other supplies," she explained.
Alexandra stocked her small store with as much inventory as she could – sinks, faucets, toilets, tiles, and any materials families would need to complete their bathrooms. She began marketing on social media and eventually plans to utilize local radio and television to reach more potential customers.
Water For People is supporting Alexandra’s business by driving potential customers her way through sanitation fairs and sanitation promoters. Throughout Cascas, behavior change promoters that Water For People trained have told families about the importance of having safe and hygienic bathrooms. These families can now be directed to Alexandra’s store, where they can buy everything they need for their bathrooms – families like Robert’s.
Robert is a single dad living with his 9-year-old son Victor. When Robert decided to build their modest home last year, he knew he wanted to make sure it had a good bathroom. Having a bathroom has made their life happier and healthier – and Victor takes pride in practice good handwashing and hygiene habits. Thanks to businesses like Alexandra’s, families throughout Cascas can now access all the materials they need to build bathrooms they’re proud of.
Robert and Victor represent Alexandra’s ultimate goal – that every family in her district would be able to have bathrooms. To her, building a bathroom is one of the best things a person could do for his family.