As you walk the vibrant market streets of Peru, the smell of fresh fish, fried yucca and plantain banana are the typical aromas that you will encounter. Although men are present in the market place and in many businesses, you will find that most of the businesses and small enterprises are in fact, owned by women.
Our TEM Lab assignment has been to identify successful women entrepreneurs in Peru and understand what makes them tick. We have gained insightful knowledge in the three weeks we have been here just by observing and talking with many different women business owners. Our time is limited, so we take advantage of every business hour during the day to encounter the ‘mujer empresaria’ or small business owner to understand her motivation and personal characteristics.
In our many interviews and multiple conversations, we have found one common theme among the successful women… they all have children. The love a mother has for her children is indescribable. In Peru you can see this love in their faces and hear it in their voices when they describe why they wake up so early every morning to set up their shop in the market, or why they travel three to four hours per week to buy fruit and vegetables to sell in the streets. It is a common motivation for all women in creating a successful business.
I spoke with Marisol, a woman entrepreneur who owns two small breakfast shops in the area of Santa Anita, Lima, Peru. In the last eight years, Marisol has grown her business from a small street cart to two small restaurants. Before she began her business, she found herself alone after her husband had left, without work and with two small children to feed. She was in need of a change. To earn the money she needed, Marisol began fixing breakfast for her friends and neighbors. Before long she found her niche, rich and flavorful cooking that many enjoyed.
Beginning with a microcredit loan of only $180, Marisol was able to buy the ingredients and supplies that she needed to provide breakfast for her clients on a daily basis. Marisol commented in the interview that when she would wake up at 4 a.m. and kiss her children on the cheek as she left for the market, she knew that it was for them that she could work harder every day. Today Marisol owns two of the most popular breakfast shops in town and has nine employees. She is able to provide enough for her children to attend a private school in downtown Lima. When I asked what gave her the motivation to grow her business to the size it is today, she simply stated, “for my children”.
We have interviewed many women entrepreneurs all in different industries with different talents. From restaurateurs to clothing distributors to transportation companies to poultry distributors all have a strong motivation to succeed not just for themselves but also for their children.