Yrua Ruiz, a young woman entrepreneur from Guatemala, cofounder of EcoArte and winner of TIC Americas 2013 has been selected as our entrepreneur of the month. EcoArte is a social micro-enterprise that promotes the culture of recycling through the manufacture of accessories made with recycled tetrapaks under its line of collection "Billepak".
EcoArte has two components: social and environmental. In order to foster employment opportunities among the most disenfranchised in her community, Yrua hires women who have fewer employment opportunities to work with her in the production of billepaks. She first teaches them how to clean and make cuts and then explain them how to put together theTetrapak to transform it into a billepak. After the training, for each unit produced, women get paid.
On the environmental side, on the one hand Yrua promotes the culture of sustainable development through partnerships with neighborhood associations and recycling companies. Yrua explained us that she is not familiar with any recycling program for Tetrapak in Guatemala. Through meetings with neighborhood associations and customers, she seeks to foster a sort of recycling program in her community, besides getting raw materials for its accessories.
Furthermore, Yrua told us that she has successfully consolidated the concept that waste can be transformed into beautiful and attractive items for the Guatemalan Public. Through her collection billepaks, Yrua has changed her clients' minds on recycling.
The idea EcoArte turned into a project in 2010, when Yrua was working for her dissertation to finish his career in Industrial Engineering at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala. Yrua told us in an interview with YABT, that she has been always passionate about production processes. At that time, his friend and soon-to-become partner Federico, a psychology student, asked her to help him with a project to improve the motor skills of epileptic women in the countryside. Long story short, EcoArte was first created as a therapy to help patients in hospitals within Guatemala. Today, the project continues to operate in hospitals as therapy while EcoArte already established itself as a formal business.
In the early years of project operation, Yrua confessed us that she was a little afraid because many people at the university criticized her for working with junk to the point of questioning his viability as a business. After participating and wining in TIC Guatemala - a national category within the TIC Americas-, Yrua showed them otherwise and transformed her project into a microenterprise. Moreover, she used her cash award as a seed capital to purchase new machines to increase the quality of their "billepaks" and improve their production process.
Today, her "billepaks" are marketed in the chain of convenience stores Meykos. Also, Yrua sells her products bazaars and fairs and international events such as the recent Regional Energy and Environmental Summit. Besides having a Guatemalan clientele, EcoArte has sold many of its products to Salvadorans. For this reason, Yrua is now planning to establish partnerships to begin exporting to El Salvador and eventually to Dominican Republic. Also, she is beginning to sell her billepaks through EcoArte's Facebook account. To achieve it all, Federico Alvarez supports her in the area of investment and logistics within EcoArte.
In long run, Yrua dreams of having an eco-store that offers a wide range of products made from recycled materials that reach all markets in Central America and the rest of the continent. For now, Yrua is testing new products, such as furniture made out of tires or fruit boxes and bags from vinyl blanket. In doing so, Yrua expects to get a new line of products capable of promoting the culture of sustainable development.
Finally, we took the opportunity to ask timely advice to young entrepreneurs, she recommended all entrepreneurs that they should strive and be brave when starting their own business: "In a company you work eight hours expecting your salary by the end of the month, in your own company, you should strive to work harder because without knowing what to expect in the short term. You have to be brave because many people will say that your idea is not feasible and you have to prove them otherwise."