Meet Ana Maria: a female entrepreneur in Chile
Starting a company is hard. Some say that starting a company as a female founder is even harder. But imagine starting a company as a female founder in South America. I am going to share a story that motivated me to continue my journey when times are difficult.
This January, I took a study abroad class to visit Chile and had an opportunity to meet Ana Maria, the owner of Dolcedonne, a super delicious bakery. Ana was not born with a prominent family name and did not have the opportunity to go to college. Her husband left her with four children to feed. No time left to panic, she decided to start a bakery, though she never liked baking. She gathered the family recipe and started leaving baked goods on the courter of local banks and businesses. People loved her products and started placing orders.
Ana’s products are top quality and attracted some of the biggest companies, including VIP lounges from big airline companies and top banks. However, problems followed. As a small business owner who had no power at all, Ana had serious cash flow issues because some of those big clients were not paying her on time. When Ana would call to try to collect the checks the company would ask her to come to the office to pick them up. After a 90 minutes’ drive to the client’s office, the receptionist would simply say, the manager is not in today. But Ana still needed to make those routine trips because if she did not show up, the manager would simply say, “Well, you were not there to collect the checks.”
As a result, some clients haven’t paid her in a year. Sometimes, when the check got to her, the date on the check was dated for 6 months prior which made the check uncollectable, forcing Ana to start the collection process once again.
Coming from the US, stories like these sound like nightmare. But in South America it is quite common for entrepreneurs who have no power nor social status. In addition, the basic infrastructure is very limited and it is very hard for entrepreneurs to have access to capital. The big clients can brush Ana off and delay payment without many consequences. But if Ana is late for her payment, the punishment is extremely harsh. Ana was late in her car payment for one month because of her cash flow issues and the bank simply took her car away. Yes, you read it right. One month! If she had been even a few days they would have taken her bakery license away.
She said her biggest wish is to actually own a house, a place truly called home for her family. However, even though she has saved up enough for the down payment, because of the cash flow issues, she is worried that the bank will take her house away if she is late with one payment.
Now, Ana employs over a dozen people to help with her bakery. She is very proud to send her four children to college with engineering and business degrees. She said the proudest thing is that her youngest is a music major. She said, “It was that moment that I knew that we made it. My children can study based on their true interests rather than study to get a stable job afterwards.”
As an entrepreneur, receiving tremendous support from the wonderful Boston community, I cannot image how much Ana has to go through. I admire and adore her strength to persevere no matter what situation she is faced with. She is a true fighter with a big heart because she thinks about other people first – her children’s future, her employees and other people she cares for.
Ana’s passion, love and dedication to her business, family and community inspires me to go forward because I know, when times are hard, I just need to remember why I started SuperHealos in the first place – to help and empower children in difficult situations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: YUAN YIN
CEO and co-founder of SuperHealos, a social enterprise dedicated to empowering children and families facing life’s toughest challenges. Through a focus on imagination, SuperHealos provides children with age appropriate stories and products to help them bridge the gap between sickness and recovery, loss and acceptance, fear and courage. I am currently pursuing a graduate degree at Babson College. I have experience in business development, manufacturing, and technology. Besides my passion in creating fun and supportive experience for children, I love traveling and meeting new people. I also enjoy creating happy artwork and food.
Read more about and from Yuan: Yuan’s iLab Profile