Gissela Perdomo’s business proposal for a start-up company that would employ destitute residents in her native city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras earned her and fellow classmates at EMCC first place in the Entrepreneurship category of the state DECA championships on Feb. 1.

March 18, 2018

Republic of Honduras resident Gissela Perdomo’s push to obtain a U.S. education is fueled by a passion to create a start-up business in her home country to provide hope, direction and employment to some of the poorest women in the western hemisphere.

Perdomo graduates from East Mississippi Community College in May with a technical certificate in Business and Marketing Management Technology. She will need two additional classes at EMCC to complete her associate’s degree and plans to take them online once she returns home.  

The problem

Perdomo is a native of San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras with a metropolitan service area of more than 1.4 million residents, according to the city’s Central District: Municipal Information.

Honduras is a poverty-stricken nation with an annual per capita income of about $600 U.S. dollars, with an estimated six out of 10 families earning less than $2.50 a day, according to World Bank statistics.

“What you consider poor in the U.S. would be considered middle class in Honduras,” Perdomo said.

Some of the most destitute residents in San Pedro Sula reside in the city’s bordos, illegal settlements dotted with ramshackle shacks fashioned together from cardboard, plastic and other materials at hand, Perdomo said. Most of the inhabitants of the bordos are uneducated farm workers with unrealized hopes of finding work in the city.

Prostitution and substance abuse are rampant here and gang members entice children and teenagers into crime with the lure of easy money, Perdomo said. San Pedro Sula is consistently ranked among the most violent cities in the world by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


Perdomo would like to hire women in the bordos and in destitute rural communities to make handmade leather crafts she would sell through the company she wants to start.

“The heart of the project is leather wallets, which sell well,” Perdomo said. “There is a great need for good jobs and my dream is to create something that will at least give hope to a few people.”

She wants to partner with area churches to provide the women with not only jobs but spiritual guidance as well.

“I wish money were the solution to all of our problems,” Perdomo said. “It’s not, although it is part of it. It doesn’t hurt to have money. But if you don’t have the principles and values and, most importantly, the fear of God in your heart, you might end up having money but not doing anything good with it.”

Perdomo wants to name the business, “Touch,” after a bible verse found in Matthew 8:2-3, which recounts how Jesus touched a leper and healed him of his affliction.

“There are so many things I know Jesus is willing to heal in our nation,” Perdomo said. “Honduras has a lot of potential but we just need that touch and opportunity.”

A sound business plan

EMCC students, from left, Cody Troyer, Gissela Perdomo and Clayton Forrester at a Fall Leadership Conference in New York City. The students are holding the national flag of Honduras, which is Perdomo’s home country. Perdomo and fellow EMCC Business and Marketing Technology students Clayton Forrester and William Jannssen pitched the business proposal for “Touch” during a state Collegiate DECA competition at Hinds Community College’s Rankin campus on Feb. 1.

The presentation earned them first place in the Entrepreneurship category, during which the competitors had to pitch a start-up business model from conception, to funding to implementation.

Perdomo, Forrester and Jannssen qualified to represent the state of Mississippi April 11-14 in the international championships during the Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va., where more than 1,000 students will compete.

The EMCC students will once again pitch Perdomo’s business proposal for “Touch,” but this time on a much larger stage.

“If we qualify for first place, that will be a certainly plus not only for me, but for EMCC, my professor and my classmates,” Perdomo said. “But I am excited just to have the opportunity to talk about Honduras and about the option to do business in a socially responsible way.”

EMCC Business and Marketing Technology instructor Dr. Joshua Carroll said the project was well thought out.

“They did an excellent job with their presentation and the business model was sound,” Carroll said.

One of the fortunate ones

EMCC student Gissela Perdomo, at right, credits her mother, Doris Perdomo, at left, with much of her success. Gissela Perdomo is among a fortunate few Hondurans to earn a college degree. Although she grew up poor, Perdomo considers herself blessed. She was raised by her mother, Doris, who has worked in the filing department at a public hospital in San Pedro Sula for about 40 years.

Perdomo said her mother worked hard to support the two of them and ensure that her daughter had better opportunities than she had. Few Hondurans earn more than a sixth grade education and Perdomo was among a select few students who qualified to enroll at a public high school in San Pedro Sula for low income students.

Perdomo entered and won a competition at the school that paid her tuition at St. Louis Community College in Missouri. It was her first trip to the U.S. That was in 1998 and two years later, Perdomo graduated with an associate’s degree in telecommunications.

When she returned home, Perdomo worked at radio and television stations before landing a job in San Pedro Sula at a Caterpillar dealership as a warranty administrator and technical translator. She enjoyed the work, bought her mother a modest home and had achieved a level of financial stability.

But something was missing.

“I had this strong conviction that I needed to not only do something for my own family but for somebody else,” Perdomo said. “That’s when I made the decision to quit my job. I was not happy about it. I was like, ‘God, are you sure?’ But when God is calling you to do something, I learned you had better be obedient.”

Mission work

Perdomo took a job as a translator for U.S. missionaries providing relief to residents in the bordos.

“I began seeing Honduras in a totally different way,” Perdomo said. “We went to places Hondurans will not even go but missionaries were going. I was able to see that, ‘OK, God, this is what you were talking about.’ That’s when the desire and the flame to help those in the bordos started in my heart. I knew I was on the right track.”

She worked as a translator for three years and served for a while as a director of Sparrow Missions.

“I was so grateful for everything the missionaries were doing for my country,” Perdomo said. “But I started thinking about our responsibility as Hondurans to do more than just act as translators and making arrangements here and there. I felt we must do something to help ourselves.”

That’s when the idea for “Touch” began to form. She wants to partner with local churches and missions to provide for mind, body and soul of those she employs.

“This is not a project that is independent or dependent but interdependent, with working partnerships on an equal level,” Perdomo said.

Although Perdomo knew she wanted to start her own company, she felt she didn’t have the business acumen.

Virgil Culver, one of her mission friends, knew Carroll, who was able to get her in his program at EMCC. New Horizons Christian Fellowship Church in Starkville, along with NEI (New Enterprises International), raised funds to pay for Perdomo’s education and expenses during her stay. Church elders and NEI missionaries Donald and Mary Bob Buckner, have provided her a place to stay and have become members of her extended family.

Up next

After graduating from EMCC, Perdomo plans to return home to Honduras. Her wish is that her business proposal will garner recognition during the DECA international championships in April.

“We are hoping the right people will want to partner with us financially to develop the project fully,” Perdomo said. “My dream is that more Hondurans will be inspired and start doing things like this. We need more than just one project.”

Eventually, Perdomo would like to return to Starkville and earn a degree in International Marketing from Mississippi State University. She is grateful for her time at EMCC and in the U.S, which she called a blessed nation.

“People here have access to a good education and well-paying jobs and an opportunity to choose,” Perdomo said. “Anyone can use the available resources not only for their own good but in order to help others. It is my prayer that more people here will be able to see and value the so many blessings they have, embrace them and not take them for granted — to have goals that will add to their lives and the lives of others, not only materialistically but in their inner beings, spiritually and in love for one another.”