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A case study on gender

It is an enterprise that exists to serve these producers, prioritising this mission over any other consideration, with all profits reinvested to benefit, or redistributed to these producers.

Manos del Uruguay is a fashion producer and brand made up, and owned, by 12 women’s producer cooperatives across Uruguay. It is an enterprise that exists to serve these producers, prioritising the mission of providing livelihoods and personal development opportunities for rural women in Uruguay.

All profits are reinvested to benefit, or are redistributed to, the producers. To achieve its social mission, Manos has had to ensure commercial success, and it has certainly proven to be a resilient and profitable enterprise.

Founded in 1968, Manos has consistently achieved sales of $4.5-5 million per year over the last ten years. Each of the 12 producer cooperatives that own and control Manos has around 20 women producers. Two of the cooperatives specialise in dyeing the yarn, and ten others knit or weave the products.

The board of Manos is made up of artisan representatives, who vote for their three board representatives at an artisan assembly. Its social mission has meant it invests in and remains fully committed to the producer cooperatives in rural Uruguay, regardless of their remote locations and other challenges. Its social mission gives it an advantage in attracting motivated and talented staff, as well as in export markets with select buyers.

Manos owns two large stores in Montevideo that drive domestic sales, though exports still represent the majority of the business. The focus for Manos has been high quality hand-woven fashion items, which it sells both under its own brand and as a private label producer for brands such as Gabriela Hearst and Ulla Johnson. It has invested in growing sales through its webshop, as well as in its branding and marketing. The enterprise sees access to finance as a key barrier, and has benefited greatly from a credit line with Oikocredit.

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