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Chicago, IL 60607

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© 2016 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Clevis Transforming Her Community

By Allison Kooser

When Clevis Berrio looked around her community in Cartegena, Colombia, she noticed a need. Pregnant women had nowhere to shop for maternity clothing. In a city with more than a million people, Cartegena did not have a single maternity store.

Clevis, a seamstress by trade, operated a small clothing business with a friend.  When she noticed the need, she and her business partner decided to make and sell  maternity and children’s clothes – eventually expanding the shop to employ four  others.

Today, six women have joined together to form the Sentimentos clothing  label – selling at one primary shop and distributing their clothing to second shop in  town.  As pregnant women visited Clevis’s store trying to sell candies to the retail staff,  Clevis was heart-broken. She knew that these women would not be able to support  themselves and their unborn children in this way, with little hope for an increased  income. Inspired by these women, Clevis and her business partners – already  creating jobs in their community through their growing company – decided to do  even more. They created a foundation within their business to support single  pregnant women.

Clevis knows the struggles of being a single mother. Her own  brother abandoned his two children, so Clevis decided to raise her nephews in his  absence.  Soon, Clevis and her friends met Opportunity International.  One of the executives at Opportunity Colombia was pregnant, looking for maternity  clothes. She went into the shop where they sell Sentimentos, and she met Clevis –  and a partnership began. Clevis consulted with her business partners and then  applied for a $3,500 individual loan to hire 14 single expectant mothers, who the  women then trained to embroider beautiful designs. 

Armed with free embroidery training and supplies from Sentimentos, the pregnant women  spend their mornings creating beautiful designs, and then sell the finished  embroidery back to Sentimentos to be used in the clothing. They earn a fair income  and can work from home so that they can easily care for their small children. 

Sentimentos’ designs are stunning – and their impact is incredible. When asked if  she was concerned that the mothers would leave and become competition, Clevis  responded, “No!” – she wants them to be equipped with skills they can use to  support their families, even if they leave her company.  Clevis is an incredible entrepreneur who is transforming her community.  Community impact is central to her business – and she is creating dozens of jobs for  women in need.

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