At a certain point we got the idea within the Fundación to start an optical business in the hope of becoming more financially self-sufficient, i.e. less dependent on foreign donors. Ana Alicia, the president of the Board, helped to set up a feasibility study in 2019 which was well received and translated into English. We participated in two ‘Little by Little’ campaigns through Global Giving, and raised about $4500 in September 2020 and about $ 3500 in March 2021. Very good amounts, but not quite enough to cover the initial investments and the running costs for the first months.
During our preparations we started to realize that running an optical business as part of the Ruach Foundation was becoming increasingly problematic. The Board of the Ruach Foundation is fully stretched as they are. Add to this the close scrutiny of NGOs by the Government, and it became obvious that it was wiser to start an optical business independently of the Ruach Foundation. However, our aim to have the social programmes of the Ruach Foundation benefit from the eventual profits made by the optical business did not change.
Life itself guided us. Through my Finnish friend Sanna I established a reliable contact with a business woman who owns an optician shop in the capital Managua. She was prepared to help us set up an optical shop in Juigalpa, but only if we were to run the shop independently of the Ruach Foundation. Sanna and I discussed with several people how the shop should be run and who should be on the Board. We decided that Sanna and I would become co-owners of Mira Mira SA, and that the business would be run as a limited liability company (Ltd).
And this is what has happened! We approached some friends with a request for a properly documented interest-free loan, so we quickly got the initially needed starting capital. The company is entirely responsible for the start and the mangement of the business. The Ruach Foundation has no obligations; it does not run any financial risk, and yet Ruach is to become the sole recipient of MiraMira’s profits (after deduction of costs) for the purpose of funding Ruach’s social programmes.
The hard work
We have worked hard to get to this stage. We have signed a lease for a shop in a convenient part of Juigalpa, and we have made the shop fit for purpose. We transferred a one-room premises into a small but elegant shop. We designed a good signboard for the shop front and we printed business cards. We asked our local television station to broadcast the opening of ‘Mira Mira’. We got our companyduly registered; the Fire Department checked out the premises, and the Ministry of Health has given us permission to start. We are very happy with the experienced staff we were able to recruit: a sales assistant who can also make adjustments to glasses frames and an optometrist for eye measurements. They are experienced and enthusiastic. They are much needed, as Sanna and I have no optical experience whatsoever!
There is a lot that goes into setting up a new business. But we did it in record time and opened our doors on 20th May, a few days ahead of Mother’s Day, always an occasion when people spend more money. The official opening was on 27 May. The first glasses have been sold and we are satisfied with the number of people who have visited the shop.
We have a reasonable range of spectacle frames, including frames for children which gives us a competitive edge. Our optometrist orders the lenses from the producer in Managua and the delivery time is about one week. We stock glasses cases, cleaning sprays, etc. and we will adjust our product range in line with demand as we go.
During my talk at the official opening, I quoted a phrase from Sister Teresa of Calcutta: “Whoever does not serve in life, does not deserve to live”. Because the philosophy of Mira Mira is to serve the community and to share the profits we make for the benefit of families in our community who are affected by intellectual disability. I expressed my gratitude to all those people who helped make our dream come true. We have accomplished so much in a short period of time that it makes one silent! Miracles still exist. Befittingly, we had asked a priest to come and bless the shop and the staff, and so it happened.
Who would have thought that one day I would become a business woman?! If you would have told me this in November last year, I would have looked at you in amazement. But here we are. Over the years I have learned to have more and more faith in life, and have become more open to being surprised by life.
Presents or donations for our fledgling business, which indirectly will benefit the work of the Fundación Ruach, can be donated via Stichting Vivir Juntos.