May Rare Bird Yvette Mazariegos, Co-Founder of M & M Distributors
The desire to be an entrepreneur was so strong that I believe that I was born an entrepreneur with an internal locus pushing me forward to start a business. Even as a child I dreamed of starting up a small business venture. I used to come up with some ideas on how to convince my friends and neighborhood kids to buy my slightly used toys, comic books and chips.
After obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1993 and marrying my husband who is an engineer, I decided to take the plunge and all the risks that go with it, and I started a small importing and distribution business in 1995/1996.
My firm imports and distributes paper, printing products and equipment, medical supplies, chemicals and textile materials. There are 2 full time employees, 4 part time employees and my husband and I primarily manage the assets making it a total of 8 employees in the company.
My market is the private sector and government. The use of computer technology has helped to make the company more efficient in terms of quick communication and response time to orders or inquiries. With the support of my husband and family, I have been able to establish and maintain an extensive network of customers to reach our market. In the first few years the challenges involved how to use formal scientific and management processes to bring about innovation. We had to blend this with what we developed as a series of accidental innovation. This means that we recognized an opportunity where different entities and government agencies could perform better if they had rapid delivery of inventory, as they needed it and at competitive cost. (Efficiency and competitive costs are key) This combination reduced their tied up investment in large inventories. This became our success and we have been at it since then and looking for other accidental innovations so to speak. My husband has always been supportive as a husband and as a business partner. My husband admires my passion and that I am always looking for, or creating new opportunities and pushing the boundaries. He thinks that I am a risk taker and fearless, he is a sweetie!
A recent opportunity (Non for profit) that I am exploring is to form an NGO to help Youths at Risk. The company’s name is Belize Youths Educational Training and Development Institute (BYETDI) I am seeking funding for this project. BYETDI will prepare upper school (primary upper level schools) in Mathematics lessons for the upper level classes of primary schools for the PSE examinations. The lessons are prepared on small booklets covering each topic in primary school curriculum. They are designed in a manner that makes the student feel he/she is in the classroom and the teacher is explaining the subject matter. It prepares remedial mathematics lessons for slower students (at primary school level) BYETDI will also help prepare high school mathematics lessons for students with learning challenges. These lessons will be put unto CD and DVD. We are arranging to have classroom teaching for the above students (primary school and high school) and for Students/ Youths Who Are At Risk. Our funds are our own resources and from our business turnover. The Belize business community and Government Institutions have always been appreciative and supportive of the services we provide to them. Our relationship is based on credibility, reliability, competitive prices, good products, flexibility and compromise where necessary and honesty at all times and levels. We did not go through any incubator or accelerator program. These are still in their infancy stages in Belize. Our website www.paper.bz is under construction at this time and we hope to have it up and running by the first quarter of 2018. We have uploaded part of our business on YouTube, you can see via this link.
Learn Her Story
SB-C: Tell us the why behind your business. YM: I have always wanted to have a business ever since I was a child. I saw an opportunity in my community and I wondered if I could fill the need and provide the services.
SB-C: What major challenges did you face when setting up your business and how did you overcome them? YM: In setting up the business we faced some challenges like limited work capital and how to enter the market and how to get people to take notice of a new company when you already had established businesses. At that time there were no incubator or accelerator programs in fact these things are still in infancy stages in Belize. We used our own funds and from our business turnover. We have had “our team” a lot of great people who have helped us along the way and we are eternally grateful to all of these people. I was fortunate to meet a very intelligent female bank manager, Ms Penny Alfaro, who saw potential in me and she extended credit to me at key times that helped me to work and turn over a profit quickly and repay. This is a great example of women empowering women to grow. The need to turn over a profit quickly caused us to be efficient. We recognized opportunities where different entities and government agencies could perform better if they had rapid delivery of inventory, as they needed it and at competitive cost. (Efficiency and competitive costs are key) This combination reduced their tied up investment in large inventories. This became our success and we have been at it since then and looking for other accidental innovations so to speak.
Another major challenge that I faced when I started BNPC Belize National Paper Converters (a few years after) was the lack of infrastructure on the land where we had to build. The roads were bad, no water, telephone lines or even light. We had to pay to put in the water, telephone and light. We had to lobby to the Government of Belize to put in a transformer for the factory at no extra cost because the light company was charging too much money to put it.
SB-C: Who has been the greatest influence on you since starting your venture and why? YM: My dad, my mom and my husband have been the greatest influences in my decision making and the wind beneath my wings. They have believed in me and supported me in different times and stages of my business. Without them I do not know if I would make it. My husband admires my passion and that I am always looking for, or creating new opportunities and pushing the boundaries. Just today he told me that he has never seen me with a worried face because I am so optimistic. I told him that I hide my fears well or go to the gym. The gym helps to take away the stress a lot and gives me energy.
SB-C: What is the vision for your business and where do you see yourself 5 years from now. YM: I want to export the paper that I convert to the neighboring Peten area (Guatemala) and the Caribbean countries. Peten is far from Guatemala City that has a lot of industry so I might be able to sell to Peten because of the proximity to Belize. These markets are huge and attractive to me. I want to take advantage of the Caribbean Single Market Economy and export to the Caribbean. Belize is part of the CSME trading block and I want to tap into it. Plus if I export, I will earn valuable foreign exchange for Belize. Belize has few exports and we should encourage growth of industry. We made some new contacts with suppliers of raw materials for the paper converting company. I envision that I will have a productive and fruitful relationship with this company and that I will convert the paper and supply Peten and many of the Caribbean countries in 5 years time. If everything goes well with the paper converting business I want to start up a cement factory in Belize. Hopefully I will be in the initial stages of the cement factory in 5 years time.
SB-C: Our community motto is share your secrets and share your success. Share 1 secret and share 1 success with our community from your entrepreneurial journey. YM: One secret is that necessity is the mother of motivation. My husband is from Guatemala and we were living in Guatemala City for our first 3 years of marriage. As a young wife I could not adjust to the culture. I had culture shock. When the opportunity to return to Belize (’95-’96) came up I quickly supported my husband to return to Belize and I promised him that my business will work, otherwise we will go back to Guatemala. My husband is an Electrical Engineer and he previously had a job in Belize at Gentrac (caterpillar dealer) so he could get a job there, or the electric company. Instead I convinced my husband to support me to start a business and in time it would be better than to be employed. I really did not want to return to Guatemala so I had the mother of all motivation..lol. I did not even have a plan B. It was “I will make it happen or else…” Another secret is credibility, reliability, competitive prices, good products, flexibility and compromise where necessary and honesty at all times and levels is essential for business success. It is important that your clients trust and believe in your reliability. One success is that we established a paper converting company in Belize (BNPC). You can view it on YouTube under BNPC, it is the one with the orange stand in the photo.