Over the past twelve plus years we have grown to truly respect the Maya artisans we work with—their talents, their skills, their drive to do quality work.
We value our Maya artisans as employees, and also as people. With MayaBags we have provided them opportunity to earn an income as artisans, but at the same time we seek to help them overcome some of the obstacles they face in life. This has been accomplished in part by recognizing the richness of their culture and the talents they have to offer, and in part by putting in place some rules that respect their lives and intelligence while reflecting our guiding principles.
Organization, quality, compensation
For MayaBags, our methods of organization, training and quality control, and compensation are closely related. These three priorities together allow MayaBags to realize the best execution of the Maya artisanal skills.
How we calculate pricing
The women are paid on a per piece basis. The way we determine pricing is to first put together a test team of embroiderers with a range of experience. The test team includes one artisan with highly developed skills, one with medium skills and one who could be categorized as an apprentice or beginner.
We then base the resulting fee for each project on the combination of the median time it takes the test team to complete their embroideries, their weavings or their basketry…and minimum wage, which is high in Belize.
Quality pays more, incentives to improve
This way the artisan with the most highly developed skills earns the most, the artisan with medium skills earns exactly what the time reflects, and the apprentice earns slightly less, reflecting the fact that she is slower than the more skilled artisans. This way, the medium and beginning artisans have an incentive to practice and hone their skills.
Artisan expense accounts
In addition to the fees the artisans earn, we pay for all their yarn, needles, hoops, chalk paper, thimbles, reading glasses and anything else they need to do a professional job.
Plus, when a team member or team needs to come to the office to pick up or deliver work, we pay their passage from their villages to and from Punta Gorda. This is an added bonus since they can do the shopping they need to do in town after meeting with us.
Goals to avoid exploitation, be efficient, be fair
Compensation is surely a complex and controversial topic in developing areas. We seek to do the best we can at keeping our product prices reasonable, while avoiding the exploitative practices that can occur in such regions– even when those practices result in cheaper products.
We aim to be as fair as possible while following good business practices for efficiency. It is a challenging balance, but one to which we are committed.