“ As Mercado Global’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, Ruth DeGolia has overseen Mercado Global’s growth from a small non-proft working with a dozen artisans in Guatemala’s highlands to its recognition as an innovator in social enterprise. ”
Ruth began working with artisans in rural Latin America in 2002 while studying at Yale University. She worked with rural indigenous communities in Guatemala on a range of local development initiatives, including community health, education, and income‐generation projects. With a start‐up grant from Echoing Green, Ruth co‐founded Mercado Global in 2004 to provide sustainable income opportunities to some of Guatemala’s most rural and poor communities. She realized that this was a model that could lift hundreds and eventually thousands of families out of poverty while empowering one of the region’s most economically, socially and
politically disenfranchised peoples: indigenous women.
Over the past seven years, Ruth has built an organization that began in a Yale dorm into an organization with offices in the U.S. and Guatemala that provides fair wage income to nearly 400 indigenous women in 31 cooperatives and 2,100 dependents. The organization has continued to grow its sales each year since its founding by developing strategic partnerships with major U.S. companies, including Levi Strauss, Crate & Barrel, Liz Claiborne, Hallmark, and Nordstrom, to expand the market for fair trade products.
Ruth’s innovative thinking, acute business acumen, and unwavering commitment to Mercado Global’s mission have been the driving forces of the organization’s rapid growth and success and have resulted in numerous awards and recognition including:
Selected as an “Architect of the Future” by Austria’s Waldzell Institute for being an “exceptional
emerging world leader and social entrepreneur” (2007)
Do Something Foundation’s BRICK Award for “young people who change the world” (2007)
Selected as one of “15 People Who Make America Great” by Newsweek; was featured on the magazine’s cover (2006)
Named among the “World’s Best Emerging Social Entrepreneurs” by Echoing Green (2004)
Recipient of Yale University’s Gordon Grand Fellowship for "character and capacity for practical leadership in the world of business or public affairs" (2004)
Ruth’s interest in Latin American issues was sparked as a sophomore in high school, after completing a History Day project on the spread of Liberation Theology through El Salvador for which she won first place nationally and a History Channel prize. She used the award money to visit El Salvador and meet the nuns and priests she had interviewed for her project, and helped organize a youth delegations to go to El Salvador and learn about these issues.
Ruth has been recognized for her role in founding and supporting a variety of programs and organizations related to international development and poverty alleviation. She currently serves as a judge for various social enterprise business plan competitions, including GuateVerde, a green business plan competition in Guatemala, and the Haas Global Social Venture Competition. While an undergraduate, Ruth founded the International Social Justice Fellowship program at Yale that trains and provides funding for students to complete project based internships with nonprofit organizations in the developing world. She has also received honors for her academic work on the impact of globalization on political and economic development in Latin America, including the William H. Orrick prize at Yale University.
Ruth graduated with distinction from Yale University with degrees in Ethics, Politics, and Economics and in International Studies.