Youth's Fruitful Business is Gang Alternative in Belize City

Dwayne Murillo is a young man with big dreams. He makes jewelry, sculpts, paints and for two years, he’s been running an informal juice stand out of the home on Nargusta Street in Belize City where he lives with his mom and uncle.

He’s different from many of the kids in the neighborhood. Gangs near the Mayflower area rule the streets and shootings are frequent. Dwayne keeps his head down. That's how he made it through  high school and junior college without being bullied or tackled by  youth in gangs. "You get used it to it," he says from his living room, as roosters crow in the yard.

Every week, he and his Uncle Emerson squeeze several hundred oranges and lemons by hand on an old-fashioned metal press. They bottle the juice and sell it locally. It’s a popular local treat, particularly on hot days. When the front door is open it means the juice is ready, Dwayne says. The neighbors see this and come knocking or place their orders from downstairs.

Last year, Dwayne enrolled in PADF’s Youth Engagement Services program, funded by the U.S. Embassy in Belize. He completed a 3-month small business development and life skills training program, and received advisory services from Belize’s Small Business Development Centre (SBDC). With the help of SBDC and PADF program staff, he came up with a business plan and formally presented it to a committee, which granted him more than $700 in seed funding.

At first, Dwayne thought running his own business would be easy, but he soon learned that it would require persistence and a lot of logistics. “When I got into the workshops I saw all the minute parts involved. I realized it was going to be a lot of work,” he says. Now, he’s laid the groundwork for his business and is grateful for the support and encouragement he got from mentors in the program. “If they believe in me,” he says, “why can’t I?”

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Dwayne hopes to formalize and expand his business with the seed funding. He plans to buy a more efficient juicer, produce a label for his brand and create marketing materials. "He's got the business sense now," his Uncle Emerson says proudly.

He’s aiming high, thinking about selling juices, expanding to other fruit juices such as watermelon and grapefruit, wholesale to schools and businesses and eventually packaging for export.

"I would love to try to get out of this area, but not turn my back on where I'm from,” he says. “If I have the opportunity, I will give back.”