Startup Stories: Hilo Sagrado Luxury with sustainable

Indigenous woman weaving her bag

Tell us about your entrepreneurial product or service.
As the legend of Wayúu people in Colombia says women were created from a spider therefore it is in their hands to ‘interweave’ whatever they need.Literally for the indigenous Wayúu people, knowing how to weave is a symbol of creativity, intelligence and wisdom, a practice that is past on from one generation to the next. This tradition, is embraced by Hilo Sagrado Foundation creating a sustainble social business where women are enabled to produce hand made products based on their traditional practices. The designs are patterns of geometrical shapes and each item is made by one woman; therefore each product is one of a kind, arduous handcraft . i.e. it takes between 20 to 30 days for a bag. The Hilo Sagrado collections, includes garments, scarfs, shoes, and accessories, along with homeware decorative items such as pillowes, hammocks, fabricks and many more products.

What inspired you to launch your business idea?
My relationship with the Wayúu, an indigenous community from Colombia’s La Guajira region, started nearly twenty years ago, when I was a sociology student in my native Italy. Flicking through a textbook, I was drawn to a photo of some Wayúu women weaving. At the time I knew very little about Colombia. But I never forgot what I had read about the Wayúu and their mythology – including the Wayúu legend in which a spider becomes a woman; the woman who intertwines with her fingers, weaving and creating.
Years later, in 2010, fate intervened and my partner was offered a job in Colombia. And, just a few weeks after landing in Bogotá, I took a trip to La Guajira with my young daughter to see for myself the Wayúu handicraft that I had read about so many years before.
In La Guajira, I found a fascinating but deeply impoverished community. If Colombia is on a fast track to being a developed country, La Guajira seems to have been left behind in the rush. According to the UN, La Guajira ranks second after Haiti amongst the poorest regions of Latin America.
I quickly realized that the Wayúu women lacked economic power. I knew that if I could empower the women to earn a decent living then I could improve the lives of the whole community.

What problem does your business or organization solve?
The Foundation purchases the wool for the women, pays for their equipment and pays them fair trade prices for their handiwork. Importantly, the women use traditional techniques in weaving the mochilas for the Foundation. This not only preserves the culture of the Wayúu, but also ensures that the products are of the highest quality.
Through this mixture of eco-friendly, artisanal techniques and modern, fair-trade, business methods the long term goal of the Foundation is that the Wayúu women will be able to sustain themselves and their families through the sale of their handiwork.
However, until that dream is realized, the Foundation also helps the Wayúu in any way it can. For example, by paying for children aged five to twelve to go to school, paying for school uniforms, even coordinating donations of school materials, toothpaste and other basic necessities

What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur and how are you working to overcome it?
My story shows the capacity of each and every one of us to change the lives of others for the better.
Working in difficult situations need a lot of patience and strong spirit of adaptation. I have been working hard since I founded my foundation, reaching customers, get government and non governmental funding. Every day I fight with harsh reality, with all the bureaucratic difficulties. I have been working hard trying to connect the foundation to the world through all kinds of social networks.

Give us one word that people might use to describe you.
Working with joy … to give and receive joy!

How has Project Eve helped you and/or your business?
Connecting me with other entrepreneur and sharing passionate stories.

Give us an insider tip that relates to your industry or startup story.
A Social Business is a sustainable business whose main objective is not the generation of profit, but the resolution of a social problem. Any profits are used to expand the scope of the company and improve the product or service.
The resources invested in social business, unlike those used in aid projects or charities, continue to generate social and environmental benefits through self-sustainability of the Social Business and can be recovered by the investor.

Company: Fundacion Hilo Sagrado


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