Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was once known throughout the world for its pristine waters. Fishermen made a living from the lake, and tourists funneled much-needed money into the nearby communities. But all that has changed.
Over the last several years, Lake Atitlan has slowly become polluted by sewage, agricultural waste, and toxic bacteria.
The once-clear waters of Lake Atitlan are now filled with contaminants like E.coli and a toxic blue-green algae called cyanobacteria, which can affect the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. These pose serious problems for the indigenous population that depend on the lake for food, water, and their livelihood. To make matters worse, the only water treatment plant for the lake was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Stan and the local government has not made it a priority to help the indigenous Mayan population living off the lake.
Enter Francesca Kennedy, whose family is originally from Guatemala.
A photo posted by Francesca Kennedy (@mymamataughtmebetterthanthat) on
As a child, Kennedy spent summers visiting Panajachel, Guatemala. She was baptized in Lake Atitlan. However, in 2010, when she was visiting her grandfather, Kennedy noticed the poor condition of the lake, and worse, she saw children collecting the water to drink. When locals told Kennedy how the quality of the lake had adversely affected the economy, she decided to use her entrepreneurial know-how to help the community.
Kennedy created I.X. Style and began selling handmade huaraches, bags, and jewelry through several well-known retail establishments.
CREDIT: IX STYLE / INSTAGRAM
The company, which was named after the Mayan word for “water,” employs about 800 female Mayan artisans from Guatemala. It donates 15 percent of its sales to organizations devoted to improving the quality of the lake’s water and the lives of those who depend on it.
The company, which started with very little money, now sees sales in excess of $500K.
CREDIT: I.X. STYLE / INSTAGRAM
Kennedy told Forbes in a recent interview, “If you are creating a business for the right reasons, with purpose and passion, your customers will feel your authenticity.”
Read the entire Forbes interview below.