Mayra Fernández is a 49-year-old Cuban primary-school-teacher whose husband, an engineer by profession, taught her how to fix household appliances over 10 years ago, at their very home in Cárdenas, a village in Matanzas province, 150 kilometers east of the capital city.
«I always wanted to become a day-care center educator, but the economic crisis made me change and I have been running a repair shop for 13 years now,» she indicated.
«I could not meet our needs working as a teacher, so I took a quality management course to work at tourist facilities in Varadero Beach. I did so until our son was born 23 years ago,» she recalled.
«He started suffering from convulsions since he was very small and I had to stop working. I became self-employed with the help of my husband,» she noted.
«Although there were other people providing the service, I soon realized that they were not very skilful and competent,» she stressed.
«At the beginning, my husband took care of complex repairs while I looked for parts and attended to clients,» she commented.
«I now focus on (the repair of) DVD players, rice cookers, irons, blenders and microwave ovens, and my husband, on TV sets and washing machines,» she remarked.
New business strategies
She has been participating in self-employed worker training courses organized by the local Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD), with the support of international cooperation organizations.
They cover topics like business management and marketing methods.
«I have managed to identify a network that sells parts and components in Santa Clara, Matanzas, Havana and Santiago de Cuba,» she commented.
«I prefer to buy quality materials,» she indicated.
«I keep a record of expenses and profits to plan new investments,» she told SEMlac.
When men arrive in the shop and see that I am the technician, they simply want to leave. I do my best to show them that I really know the business,» she said.
«Some of them even demand that my husband should repair their appliances,» she added.
«My dream is to establish a cooperative to maximize the talents of several technicians,» she confessed.
«We have been moving along these lines already; we send them clients when we cannot cope with all the work we have, and we keep in touch with them,» she remarked.
Her son, who has been trained as a computer technician, is now working with them and supporting the family, including his grandparents.
«I keep on cooking, but I leave all other household chores in the hands of a young woman who comes twice a week,» she commented.
«I set priorities and work from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. I need to implement community actions as a member of the Presbyterian Church,» she remarked.
«They include supporting the Grandparents Club and the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Group,» she exemplified.
«I am also a member of the National Amateur Radio Movement, which helps me track parts down and clarify doubts about repairs,» she added.
«I like helping people out. This makes me grow stronger and build hopes up,» she concluded.
Translated by Adolfo Fuentes