Cristha Fuentes sips a Coca-Cola on the terrace of Luna de Miel in Antigua, Guatemala. She sports pineapple earrings under waves of dark brown hair and a yellow planner peeks out of her purse. But her secret is under the table – size 7.5 brown, handmade chukkas, designed by Fuentes herself.

 CRISTHA FUENTES SHOWS OFF HER PINK OXFORDS OUTSIDE OF SIMPLE, A STORE IN GUATEMALA CITY THAT SELLS HER DESIGNS. 60 PERCENT OF THE PROFITS FROM THE OXFORDS GO TOWARD SUPPORTING THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FUND.

CRISTHA FUENTES SHOWS OFF HER PINK OXFORDS OUTSIDE OF SIMPLE, A STORE IN GUATEMALA CITY THAT SELLS HER DESIGNS. 60 PERCENT OF THE PROFITS FROM THE OXFORDS GO TOWARD SUPPORTING THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FUND.

At age 22, Fuentes runs her own fashion brand with more than 13,000 followers on Facebook. She grabs a cup of coffee and drives from her family’s four-bedroom condominium in Guatemala City to Antigua more than three times a week where she ships shoes across the country and the United States. Her tagline, which she attaches to all her designs, reads “shoes with soul.” 

By donating money to this cause I’m opening doors for women who actually need it.
— Christha Fuentes

Her work started after she was 18 when a friend invited her to share her designs at a craft market in Guatemala City. Before the day was over, Fuentes had a list of people who wanted to buy her designs. Since then, the requests keep coming.

 CRISTHA FUENTES POINTS TO ONE OF HER HANDMADE LEATHER PURSES IN TRE SORELLE IN GUATEMALA CITY ON JAN. 11. FUENTES SELLS HER MERCHANDISE IN THREE STORES AROUND GUATEMALA.

CRISTHA FUENTES POINTS TO ONE OF HER HANDMADE LEATHER PURSES IN TRE SORELLE IN GUATEMALA CITY ON JAN. 11. FUENTES SELLS HER MERCHANDISE IN THREE STORES AROUND GUATEMALA.

Fuentes makes an effort to be socially conscious and supports causes, such as Breast Cancer Awareness, for which 60 percent of the profits from her $225 pink oxford shoes go. 

“I wanted that for once we as girls could finally join and fight against something that is bigger than ourselves,” Fuentes said.

She also makes her products from locally sourced materials, such as leather from Quetzaltenango. Designs are produced at three different warehouses in Guatemala City that employ seven to eight people each. 

“I want to empower women through my shoes,” Fuentes said. In one day, Fuentes shipped 30 pairs of shoes to Florida from UTZ Market, a shipping nonprofit in Antigua. Fuentes doesn’t always get to see who the shoes go to, but she likes to give her customers a face, like the time she saw a girl outside Guatemala City wearing boots she designed.“She’s a girl boss,” UTZ team member Sergio “Checho” Nájera said.

When Fuentes was 19 she pitched her idea to Centro Municipal de Emprendimiento, a program designed to help early entrepreneurs reach their goals. Fuentes received training in marketing at CME and was introduced to other startups such as UTZ. Fuentes regards former CME director Roberto Mayen as the most influential to her career. She received her degree in product design in 2016 and plans to devote the rest of her time to achieving a bachelor’s in administration and expanding her designs. “I think I owe most of my confidence here [at CME],” Fuentes said.

 THREE WORKERS FROM UTZ MARKET SHIPPING COMPANY PREPARE TO MAIL A PACKAGE ON JAN. 10. FUENTES USES THIS STARTUP SHIPPING COMPANY TO SHIP HER PRODUCTS DUE TO THEIR AFFORDABLE PRICES.

THREE WORKERS FROM UTZ MARKET SHIPPING COMPANY PREPARE TO MAIL A PACKAGE ON JAN. 10. FUENTES USES THIS STARTUP SHIPPING COMPANY TO SHIP HER PRODUCTS DUE TO THEIR AFFORDABLE PRICES.

Our idea is to become the Guatemalan Amazon. To have pretty much all of the sales that go out of Guatemala pass through our hands.
— Sergio “Checho” Nájera

At Tre Sorelle in Proceres mall in Guatemala City, Fuentes’ purses peek out from behind pairs of heels and sneakers. Fuentes’ most popular purse, a mixture of leather and traditional Guatemalan cloth, sells for 790 quetzales, or about $105. The shop is one of three stores in Guatemala City that sell Fuentes’ designs. “[Customers] come here to search the designs of Cristha,” shop owner Brenda Mendoza said. Before Fuentes leaves, the shop owners ask for a picture.“I believe the best form to help people here in Guatemala is to give them jobs,” Fuentes said. 

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