María Pacheco is the founder of Wakami, a socially-minded fashion accessories brand that enables women in Guatemala, and other countries facing similar economic challenges, to export handmade accessories created with ancestral Mayan weaving techniques to 20 countries. The income generated by the producers and business owners directly addresses two key issues within their rural communities: formal education for their children — especially for girls — and better nutritional status. For her work with Wakami, María was a finalist for the 2016 Chivas Venture grant for social entrepreneurs.
María’s objective is to provide market access to vulnerable communities in Guatemala as a way to transform cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity. She has consulted for both private businesses and governmental institutions, including the United Nations Foundation and Chemonics/USAID. She also helped design a $60 million loan granted to Guatemala by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, which enabled more than 300 rural businesses to access global markets.
María co-founded the Guatemalan chapter of the Vital Voices Central American Network. She is also part of the Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Institute and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2007 Vital Voices Washington Global Economic Development Award, a DVF Award from the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, the Stephan Schmidheiny Award for Innovation in Latin America and the INCAE Challenge Award. She was nominated by Revista Estrategia y Negocios as one the top three most influential women in Central America. In 2017, Maria received the Global Women Leaders Award from Goldman Sachs and Fortune magazine.
A Universidad del Valle Biology graduate, María received an Agriculture Master’s Degree from Cornell University on a Fulbright Scholarship.