The study “Female entrepreneurship in times of pandemic”, carried out by the Ministries of Economy and Women’s Affairs together with Cadem to more than 1,600 women in the country in 2021, showed that 53% of the women surveyed created their entrepreneurship during the pandemic. The document also shows the negative impact that the health crisis had on women’s employment.
Aware of this scenario, in 2021 the Luksic Foundation launched a new program with a gender focus to support women entrepreneurs in the country: Despega Mujer. Genoveva Chávez was one of the 20 participants in the first version who received economic support of $2 million, training and personalized mentoring to strengthen her family business.
“The program helped me a lot to strengthen my business,” says Genoveva when asked about her experience in Despega Mujer. Although the entrepreneur from Puerto Montt describes herself as an introverted woman, her character and attitude show the opposite. This is what has led her to take the reins of the special welding business she has had for more than 10 years with her husband.
Genoveva tells that her husband’s dismissal was the impetus that generated this entrepreneurial opportunity. “We had some machines and I had the basic knowledge of business administration that I learned in school, so we didn’t hesitate. I made all the inquiries to formalize and start our dream,” explains the entrepreneur.
Perseverance and tenacity
Pandemic, social outbreak and two major business robberies Genoveva has suffered since she started her small business 10 years ago. “But life has taught me that we have to move forward and here we are. We continue to learn and enjoy the independence that the business gives us,” she says.
While her husband does the welding, she administers and manages the finances. Her business differs from others in that it is dedicated to welding in different materials, such as aluminum, steel and bronze, among others. Many of her customers are boat owners who need propeller repair on their boats.
“The business has allowed us to be with my family 24/7, to have our house, car to do freight and to be able to close on weekends. I have always been well organized, so even though we had to close for a few weeks, income was not a problem,” says Genoveva proudly.
Seeing is believing
Genoveva is part of Fondo Esperanza, an entity that provides microfinance services and training to entrepreneurs in the country, and who applied for the Despega Mujer program. “When they told me I had won, I didn’t believe it. I had never won anything. I was practically not convinced until I started the program,” recalls the entrepreneur from Puerto Montt.
In addition to financing and classes, the program develops learning circles with the Corporación Construyendo Mis Sueños (Building My Dreams Corporation). These are spaces for entrepreneurs to strengthen their networks and share their experiences.
“They gave me a lot of knowledge, guidance, the ability to think big. It even boosted my self-esteem. Despega Mujer gave me the tools for the future,” says Genoveva.
In addition, with the prize money, the entrepreneur was able to buy back one of the machines stolen from her shop, which allows her to reduce production time. Together with her husband, they also carry out work in the field and at home, thanks to the profits that allowed them to buy their own vehicle to move around.
“Through this program we seek to support women entrepreneurs in our country, providing the necessary tools for their autonomy, decision making and knowledge so that their business can scale to a higher segment. We are already working on the next version to reach more corners with this important impulse”, explained Cristián Schalper, head of the Entrepreneurship area of the Luksic Foundation.
The second version of Despega Mujer is currently underway, with the participation of 50 women entrepreneurs from different areas in the regions of Coquimbo and Biobío.