Homepage of Single Mother Organics
organic farming
Farm Blog
Farm Tour and Media
Order Organic Food
Support Single Mother Organics

What is a Pulperia?  And why we need one

A pulperia is basically a general store located inside of a private home.  The one difference is that the customers do not enter the home, instead they go up to a special window where they tell the attendant what they wish to buy, and the attendant gathers up the items, passes them through the window and collects payment.  Pulperias are very common, just from my estimation, probably 1 in 20 houses outside of major cities serves a pulperia.  There is almost always at least one every two blocks, and sometimes there are multiple pulperias on a single block.

The need for pulperias is the fact that almost nobody has cars in Nicaragua so traveling to a super market is time consuming and impractical.  The economy is built around pulperias with even the smallest of them having multiple deliveries from many different vendors.  For instance, both Coke and Pepsi deliver to every pulperia, usually weekly if not twice a week.  Other companies such as snack foods or household supplies also distribute directly to pulperias.

Pulperias can be substantially profitable businesses, most are not.  Because there is no business license associated with having a pulperia and taxes do not need to be paid until you achieve sales way higher than most pulperias ever get, most pulperias are treated by their owners as an afterthought.  Inventory controls, merchandising and customer service are usually horrible.  For instance, it is not unusual to leave your house needing to buy five common items, but having to visit three different pulperias to find all of your items.  Most pulperias frequently run out of certain products.  At the same time, almost no effort goes into what most people would consider normal merchandising.  You almost never can see even half of what the pulperia offers and there is certainly no thought on the owners part of displaying ´oh yeah, I need that´ items or impulse-buy items.  The final thing lacking is usually customer service, this comes mainly in the form of unclear prices or store hours. It is almost normal to go to your nearby pulperia and have the husband charge you one price for an item, and the next day the wife charge you a different price.

And so why do we need to have our own pulperia?  There are actually a few reasons, but probably the main one is the deliveries.  Having a home with 20 residents, each of which would need basic household items including soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste and diapers is a logistical nightmare and would either require large shopping trips to a super market, or else very frequent hunting expeditions to pulperias.  Other than having the items delivered to the house on a weekly basis, we would also be getting them at wholesale prices. ( usually 10% discount).

The second major reason is because of the educational opportunity it gives us with the mothers.  As I said, well-run pulperias that concentrate on inventory control, merchandising and customer support can be very profitable and usually in most villages, the richest home is the one with the business-minded pulperia.  So with that said, even if you discount all of the organic farming stuff from our project, if we can teach nothing but how to manage a pulperia correctly, that mother can then go on to have a successful business.

The next reason is that pulperias are profitable.  While we will be using large amounts of our own inventory, even still we should be able to break even or make a profit.  If we can keep a large variety of inventory, never run out of products, design the display area to promote up-selling  and keep consistent hours we should quickly become one of the more popular pulperias in town.  Basically if we can sell 90% and use only 10% of the items that are delivered, it means that our basic household items are free.

Finally the pulperia will give us another tier of selling for our vegetables.  In general, we view the vegetables on different levels depending on the price we can sell them.  The highest end crops will go to customers via home deliveries. The next level, and the bulk of sales will be to hotels, resorts and restaurants and then also farmer´s markets in expat communities.  These first two groups of customers have guaranteed ´delivered today, harvested today' freshness.  But once that day is over, the pulperia now gives us a way to sell our vegetables at a cheaper price to local customers.  Generic garden vegetables like tomatoes, onions and peppers are some of the fastest selling items at pulperias and many do not have access to even sell them.  Always having these common vegetables will also lead to higher sales of delivered products as customers become aware that we always have everything that need.

If you would like to support our project, you can make a donation here.