In celebration of our 15 years empowering women, we are excited to introduce a collection of success stories from EWI alumnae. EWI board member Howie Feinstein is the contributing writer for this series.

Like so many immigrants to the US, Maritza Garcia, proprietor of Miracle Hands Candles, is sincerely thankful for the opportunities opened for her here. At the same time, she is intensely proud of her heritage as an indigenous Mayan from Guatemala. Successfully negotiating one world can is challenging enough for most of us, but Maritza manages to accommodate her cultural duality with persistence and grace.Maritza

“I am inspired by my cultural heritage, and have created a line of unique handcrafted candles. I hand-make all candles, and design the containers with intricate designs. [I] make each art piece with dedication and effort, to make sure each one is unique in its own way.” Maritza’s creativity, innovation, and passion show in each and every one of her designs.

Growing up in the northern Guatemala town of Coban, Maritza went with her mother and grandmother to local artisans’ workshops, where she became fascinated with the ancient methods of pottery and candle-making of the Mayan culture. In war-torn Guatemala, she found peace and sanctuary in hands-on clay workmanship, and eventually went on to obtain a degree in the creative arts and marketing from the National University in Guatemala City.

In the typical immigrant story, Maritza had to effectively start over when she and her family arrived in the US in 2000. Confronted with a new language and culture, with three children, her work ethic carried her through a lengthy succession of day jobs–an exhausting regimen which left little time for her artwork.

Eventually Maritza realized that she needed to return to the rhythms of the artisan process for her own peace of mind: “I needed to use my hands to shape beauty.”

At the suggestion of a neighborhood friend, Maritza enrolled in EWI’s ETS course, which she quickly realized was an excellent match for her background and dreams of turning her creative passion into a successful business. “As a homemaker, I had a feel for budgeting. Women are very creative–we have to be. We can inspire and empower each other.”

That is when her dream began to morph into a realistic goal. “EWI taught me the value of my product–it is my vision, not just an item for sale. Customers want quality. I learned to target sales. I started to feel empowered. I was so impressed by how the women in the classes transformed ideas into business plans. At EWI we all shared ideas, suggestions, and opinions with each other.”

Encouraged by the expertise and support gained  from the ETS experience, Maritza has continued in EWI’s Grow My Business program, where she credits mentor-in-chief and distinguished EWI alumna Sharmila Karamchandani with further expanding her artistic and marketing horizon. Her candle containers, which combine contemporary American subject matter and ancient Mayan artisanal tradition, are now sought-after art objects in themselves. Her close relationship with the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington has resulted in travel to her native county as a business consultant, inspiring budding Guatemalan businesswomen.

The journey continues. Maritza is looking to market through the Smithsonian museums and similar outlets. She sells at one museum in Los Angeles, and markets aggressively online. And, in moments when her optimism might waver, she reinvigorates her spirit in her special place: her home workshop, complete with kiln and potter’s wheel, where her hands can perform their miracles.

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Performing Miracles With Her Hands — Maritza Garcia
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