peru emprendedora

Soy Emprendedor: Barriers for Peruvian Entrepreneurs Need to Change

emprendedor peru

We met Edwin Vargas of Soy Emprendedor (Translated to: I am Entrepreneur Peru) in a trendy café in the heart of Lima’s commercial district: Miraflores. With him was Renee Rojas, a cheerful industrial engineer turned agricultural entrepreneur who is currently running a vertical garden installation business.

“Our goal is to provide a green space for offices and houses. We want to create something beautiful… a little peace of nature for people living in cities,” Says Renne. In addition to providing vertical gardens, Renee also supplies office plants that come in a variety of sizes. “One of my biggest problems is cash flow. Our vertical gardens require a lot of upfront cash and that’s difficult for a small business,” says Renee.    

Matilde Victoria Gonzales Quesada, a chocoholic turned chocolate manufacturer and member of Soy Emprendedor, agrees that cash is a big problem for Peruvian entrepreneurs. “I can’t scale the business the way I want to because I can’t access needed capital to hire other chefs. We have large customers waiting to place large orders, but I can’t produce enough chocolate to fulfill the demand. Right now it is just me and one other employee making our chocolate.”

Matilde's business, Delicias Matty’s produces chocolate without sugar (instead she uses stevia) and with Quinua and Cocoa. “It’s positioned as a healthier form of chocolate,” says Matilde. She’s been selling to boutiques in Lima for two years now.

“There are a lot of barriers for Peruvian entrepreneurs,” says Edwin of Soy Emprendedor. “Financing is tough and the government isn’t pro entrepreneurship. In time, we are hoping this will change.”

Soy Emprendedor is an organization that began 5 years ago to unite and offer a place of community for Lima’s entrepreneurs. Most of the organization is online, but they often meet at a café to discuss their businesses and entrepreneurship at large in the country.

ALLPA: "Start Thinking Like An Entrepreneur."

“We entered the textile and jewelry industry by chance,” Says Maria del Carmen De la Fuente of herself and her co-founder Nelly Canepa at ALLPA – a seller of Peruvian textiles and jewelry. “At the time, we were working for an NGO; training local artisans on how to increase the quality of their products and to sell their products to the regional and global markets.”

Maria loved learning the stories of these local artisans and understanding the production process and meaning behind each craft. “The problem was that the artisans needed to stop thinking like artisans and start thinking like entrepreneurs if they were going to make a living for their families.”

That’s when Maria and Nelly started ALLPA. “We partner with local artisans and sell their goods to The States, Canada and Europe. One of our largest customers in the US is the Ten Thousand Villages stores based out of Lancaster, PA.”  

ALLPA prides itself on transparency, excellent service, fair trade, sustainability and good stories. “So long as we maintain those key aspects, ALLPA grows.”

Through their partnership with local artisans, ALLPA provides training to ensure their products have excellent quality, but also to ensure that their artisans know how to run their small businesses efficiently and safely. “In the beginning our classes were simple, like how to pack the products. But it soon developed into teaching them how to improve their technical skills, and how to manage their books and industrial safety techniques.” To ensure their products were high quality and that their artisans were working in a safe and sustainable manner, “we needed to adapt big industry standards to the local artisan markets.”

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

At the end of the day however, “we never know exactly what will sell. Each year we develop 500 new products. We will sell 100 and the rest will stay in our showroom. Yet, over the years, we have learned how to smell what will sell and to develop the kind of quality products the world is looking for.”

Las Vecinas: When Trendy Meets Delicious

When you walk through the hidden door of Las Vecinas in Lima, Peru, the first thing you notice is the smell of freshly ground coffee. Next, you notice the walls strewn in photographs and the trendy, recycled furniture and adornments. Lastly, you might take note that the entire menu is vegetarian and local – a bit of a rarity for Peru and Latin America at large.

Las Vecinas

Zonia Zena is a photographer and world traveler turned café owner. She has always had a huge love for cafes, which stem from studying abroad during University, and thought opening a café in virgin territory (AKA Barranco, Lima, Peru) might provide the cash flow to support her second love: Photography.

“It is beautiful and perfect,” says Zonia of the café. “It has been a lot of work and it was a risk. But, I think when you really believe in something and you enjoy doing it, people react to that. The moment I no longer enjoy owning the café, I’m going to close it down.”

Zonia opened the café three years ago with the help of a family investment. “We were the third café in the area. Now there are many more.” And yet, the vegetarian and recycle theme to Las Vecinas separates it from competitors. “I wanted to create an experience in all the senses, enjoying good organic food in a cozy atmosphere.“

When we asked her what her favorite thing on the menu was, Zonia recommended the La Provenzal Sandwich coupled with the freshly squeezed Mango Lemonade. “It’s a grilled Panini with feta goat cheese, olives and herbs, one of the first sandwiches that were created at the cafe”

Today, Las Vecinas has more than 20,000 followers on Facebook. “About 40% of our customer base are either tourists or expats, the rest are Peruvians.” Most of her customers have come from social media and especially Trip Advisor. “I’m really lucky to have such amazing customers. They truly enjoy the café and the vision I created. That is special and I am proud of that."