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Carmiña’s story: Building a family business

Carmiña’s story: Building a family business

COOP-EC-008.jpg14 May | 2021

We meet with Carmiña López who we also highlight in our Annual Report 2020. Carmiña is an entrepreneur with a family business that has grown with funding from Cooprogreso, one of our financial inclusion partners in Ecuador.

The ups and downs of family businesses are well known, and for many people they are their livelihoods, which also provide income for educating their children and are the hope of creating stability for future generations. And in these pandemic times the family business also means that families can be together, able to support each other.

Carmiña López: fashion from Colombia to Ecuador

Carmiña López runs a fashion production business which involves the whole family. Husband Rodrigo handles the production part, with her daughter María taking care of the accounting and son Andrés managing the day-to-day operations.

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Carmiña and her husband Rodrigo came to Ecuador from Colombia 33 years ago, after Rodrigo had been moved there by his company. They saw an opportunity in Ecuador to start their own clothing manufacturing business. Carmiña told us, “Building a business is a long and hard process, and for everything we have achieved we are grateful to the people of Ecuador.” Today the couple employ 20 people and work with another 10 suppliers who produce garments for them.

Our partner: Cooprogreso

Carmiña’s family business is funded by our partner Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Cooprogreso Ltda (Cooprogreso), a saving and credit cooperative in Ecuador that serves microentrepreneurs in urban and rural areas through its methodology of individual and village banking.

Initially Carmiña and Rodrigo lacked working capital and were new to the country, and that’s where Cooprogreso became part of the story. As Carmiña says, “To set up a factory you need strong capital backing because chain stores will only pay our invoice 90 days after our clothes have been delivered to them.” The speed of receiving loans and the strong relationship with Cooprogreso means that Carmiña continues to borrow money from Cooprogreso. Carmiña tells us, “At the start of the pandemic we explained to Cooprogreso that we have a huge facemask contract and we needed to invest in machinery. They already know our business and were able to quickly provide a loan for US$ 20,000.”

While the pandemic has meant new opportunities like the facemask contract, demand has slowed in other areas and in 2020 Carmiña and her husband have not always been able to provide work to the suppliers who produce some of the clothes for them.

Hope for the future

Andrés is now finding new customers and a loan was recently made directly to him. Carmiña is proud when she tells us: “Imagine how I feel? I am living gratefully when I see Cooprogreso also shaking hands with my son.” Carmiña can see a great future in the family business she and her husband have developed over a lifetime of work.

Lorena Torres, Oikocredit’s Investment Manager based in Quito, Ecuador's capital said: “Cooprogreso has been our partner since 2015 and over the years this microfinance institution has demonstrated genuine commitment to improve its social outreach. Oikocredit has evidenced this improvement and Cooprogreso became the first saving and credit cooperative in Latin American to achieve the Certification in Client Protection Principles. This has been the benchmark for others, creating a culture of good practice in the industry.”

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Carmiña may be 60, but she’s not looking to retire, only to grow the number of staff and is dreaming of owning the warehouse they currently rent. For Carmiña it’s not only about making a living but about family too, creating opportunities for her family and the community where she lives.

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