Betting on an idea: 6 stories of female entrepreneurs

Published on Friday, 9 April 2021

The project began in 2018 as a microenterprise led by Claudia Sandoval, later joined by Elba Gutiérrez and Lorena Sandoval, women from the same municipality. With Enel Generación's help, they have established themselves as a benchmark for the circular economy in the area since they use waste material from local industries, including pallets from the Enel Chile Bocamina power station.

“It is deeply satisfying to become an entrepreneur. It is life-enhancing. We are making progress and constantly training in new skills so we can continue to grow the business,” Sandoval said, highlighting the importance of collaborative work and focusing on local entrepreneurship.

“When big companies support you, you grow faster, and your business becomes better known. Collaboration with Enel has been of great help to us for growing our project.”

– Sandoval said.

Family legacy in Caleta Lo Rojas

Paula Fuentealba Espinoza is keeping alive a business that her great-grandmother started. The Coronel businesswoman runs a fish and seafood stall at the popular Caleta Lo Rojas fish market.

"I have been doing this since I was a little girl. I started off working with my mother in our family business. I've spent all of my life on the coast. I come from a fishing family. It is a tough life, getting up at three in the morning and going to the 'Vega' fish market, calling suppliers so that they can deliver the products to us," says Fuentealba. She applied for Enel Generación’s Artisanal Fishing Development Fund to build up the family business and add value to its products.

"For me, working with Enel was essential. I urgently needed freezers, and due to the pandemic, we couldn't afford them. With Enel funding, I was able to achieve that," said Fuentealba, highlighting the importance of funds like that of Enel to help add economic value to local economies. "It is very important for people trying to grow their businesses because they can do things differently."

Chilean gourmet Cochayuyo

Loreto Navarrete, Marina Alimentos's co-owner, inherited the 'cochayuyo' southern bull kelp business from her family. However, she had an idea of using cochayuyo to ​​make gourmet products, particularly healthy and tasty options for children, adults, and vegans.

"This is a family business, and we have always worked with kelp. When we realized there was potential to add value to this product, we decided to go for it," says Navarrete.

As an entrepreneur, Navarrete also successfully applied for Enel Generación’s Artisanal Fishing Development, which has enabled Marina Alimentos to take her idea to another level. Working alongside Enel has helped her in the financial resources received and because the collaborative work has helped them expand the scope of their business.

"Working with big companies is important. We had fought to find a space to develop our products, and with the support of Enel Chile, we were able to set that up. That has been a tremendous step forward. You never have much capital at first. You have to rely on family support to allow you to innovate a little. In our case, our relationship with Enel was not only in receiving the financing, but it has also helped promote the brand. Saying that we worked with a company as Enel has been like having company backing," Navarrete said.

Circular economy on the Pehuenche Route

"I like the change I've made in my life, of becoming an entrepreneur who works with natural materials like wood," says Rosita Marchan, founder of Casa del Pallet.

Located along the Pehuenche Route, in the Andean sector of the Maule region, Casa Del Pallet offers quality products based on a circular and sustainable economic model. The Pehuenche Route initiative has another added value proposal: transferring knowledge and training participants in new skills to open up new job opportunities in the local economy.

"Before, I did not even know how to hammer a nail, and today I know how to operate different machines for cutting and planning beams and pallets to make furniture and other household items.” The idea of learning new skills is something that I thought I would never do in my life, so it has been a wonderful experience,” Marchan said.

“Working as a team has undoubtedly been one of the biggest challenges. Many just want to start making money immediately when in reality this requires a process of refining their skills and working together to gradually start selling more,” she explains.

“Without the support from these companies, I'm certain that we would still be housewives or working in jobs we did before. Those of us who embraced this have done so by taking advantage of this historic opportunity, never before seen in this territory, to train for months and have expensive equipment donated to you. Very soon, we will have a room where we can work and sell our products along the international route. We are very grateful for this helping hand that Enel Chile is giving us.”

– said Rosita

Sustainable irrigation in Paso Nevado

“Enel, through its workshops, has helped me develop as a woman. I think it is a good opportunity for rural women,” says Leticia Rojas of the Mujeres Viento de Ensueño from Paso Nevado group in the Maule region.

This group is a beneficiary of the Programa Mujeres Rurales INDAP-PRODEMU, which provides technical advice and training to smallholder farmers or countrywomen. Through collaboration with Enel Generación, they have been able to strengthen their economic activities.

 “The resources that Enel has contributed have helped us a lot, especially for irrigation, because beforehand we used to irrigate, plant by plant, using a hose. But now we have more time to do other things because the irrigation is done practically by itself,” says Rojas.

PRODEMU's regional director Valeri Santander highlighted the importance of this public-private partnership. "The case of the women from the town of Paso Nevado is special. With considerable effort, they have built greenhouses in the Andean foothills. They are a shining example of how perseverance and hard work pays off."

Ethno-tourism in indigenous territory

The Parque La Isla – Salto La Olla park is located in the Puyehue municipality in the Los Lagos region. Enel Green Power has loaned the land to the Mapu Pilmaiquén Indigenous Community, which manages the park and develops artisanal and tourist activities.

“This experience has been a tremendous challenge. First of all, we had to set up an ethno-tourism project in a rural and little-known community like the Pilmaiquén sector. Pilmaiquén was a little-known area always because it has never had a project of this magnitude, like tourism,” says community president Bernardita Amolef, who has also received training in tourism.

"The main challenge was to build trails, viewpoints, ancestral places, and children's playgrounds, visiting centers for attending to the public and selling handicrafts. All of this we have had to do while still maintaining our cultural identity and not interfering in the biodiversity of this place, as well as always keeping visitor safety first and foremost", explains Amolef.

The second challenge was to learn administrative duties since this was the first time they had been in charge of an important project. They had to train to be able to comply with tourism-park regulations.

This initiative is a benchmark in Chile of collaborative work between private companies and indigenous people and developing a project of economic, social, and environmental value.

“We've always sought to fulfill our dreams while still keeping our feet firmly on the ground. This project has helped us grow as a community and raise awareness about the need to take care of our land and the environment.”

– Amolef said.