Soy Emprendedor: Barriers for Peruvian Entrepreneurs Need to Change

emprendedor peru

We met Edwin Vargas of Soy Emprendedor (Translated to: I am Entrepreneur Peru) in a trendy café in the heart of Lima’s commercial district: Miraflores. With him was Renee Rojas, a cheerful industrial engineer turned agricultural entrepreneur who is currently running a vertical garden installation business.

“Our goal is to provide a green space for offices and houses. We want to create something beautiful… a little peace of nature for people living in cities,” Says Renne. In addition to providing vertical gardens, Renee also supplies office plants that come in a variety of sizes. “One of my biggest problems is cash flow. Our vertical gardens require a lot of upfront cash and that’s difficult for a small business,” says Renee.    

Matilde Victoria Gonzales Quesada, a chocoholic turned chocolate manufacturer and member of Soy Emprendedor, agrees that cash is a big problem for Peruvian entrepreneurs. “I can’t scale the business the way I want to because I can’t access needed capital to hire other chefs. We have large customers waiting to place large orders, but I can’t produce enough chocolate to fulfill the demand. Right now it is just me and one other employee making our chocolate.”

Matilde's business, Delicias Matty’s produces chocolate without sugar (instead she uses stevia) and with Quinua and Cocoa. “It’s positioned as a healthier form of chocolate,” says Matilde. She’s been selling to boutiques in Lima for two years now.

“There are a lot of barriers for Peruvian entrepreneurs,” says Edwin of Soy Emprendedor. “Financing is tough and the government isn’t pro entrepreneurship. In time, we are hoping this will change.”

Soy Emprendedor is an organization that began 5 years ago to unite and offer a place of community for Lima’s entrepreneurs. Most of the organization is online, but they often meet at a café to discuss their businesses and entrepreneurship at large in the country.

El Mundo Papel: The Starving Artist is Dead!

El Mundo Papel

When we first came across Isrealo Sucro, the young artist and entrepreneur was bent over a sketchbook, ballpoint pen in hand, working on a cartoon. The cartoon’s focus was a fish that was inspired by the waters of Peru.

Five years ago, Isrealo graduated from art school and turned his private art studio into an entrepreneurial enterprise. He transforms his cartoon sketches into cotton t-shirts, tote bags, notebooks, stickers and other forms of merchandise which he sells from his studio/boutique, El Mundo Papel in Miraflores, Lima, Peru.

Isrealo Sucro on left, Andrew Bagwell right. 

Isrealo Sucro on left, Andrew Bagwell right. 

“El Mundo Papel allows me to do what I LOVE while making money. That is something special.” For Isrealo, the term "starving artist" doesn't exist.

“I get inspiration from everything” he explains. “The ocean is a big inspiration. New experiences and traveling gets me the most excited to create.”

He had recently returned from Cusco and, inspired from the antiquated architecture, devised a new series of cartoon drawings featuring Incan houses coming to life with eyes and arms sprouting from the walls.

In addition to creating designs and selling merchandise, El Mundo Papel holds popular classes teaching linocuts, that allow students to create their own unique print.

peru art

“I love to teach,” explains Isrealo. “I can see how happy people get when they create something awesome and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction. My favorite age group to teach are kids because of the excitement they have for art.”

In the future, Isrealo hopes to give back to his community, especially to those kids in Lima that don’t have the opportunity to take art classes. “I would love to teach or create a project with the kids from Lima’s poor,” says Isrealo, reminding us of Lima’s dark side.

Between the neighborhoods of Miraflores de San Juan and Sucro is a 10-foot high cement wall rimmed with barbed wire. Nick named the Wall of Shame, its purpose is to divide the gorgeous modern neighborhoods from the shantytowns of Lima’s poor.  

Source: BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34451418

Source: BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34451418

“By stimulating creativity in kids, I think we can really make a difference, especially for kids in poor neighborhoods.”

El Mundo Papel may have started as a way for Isrealo to sell custom t-shirts to family and friends, but it has evolved to become so much more. El Mundo Papel has become an oasis for everyday people to explore and support the arts in Peru. Looking forward, Isrealo can’t wait to give back to his community, and to expand El Mundo Papel workshops across Peru.

Barranco Beer Company: Brewing a Craft Beer Revolution in Lima, Peru!

Peru Emprendedor

“All hard work, deserves good beer,” says Andres Lefevre, Co-Founder and CEO of Barranco Beer Company, as he clinks glasses with us during the interview. We were ten minutes in to our conversation and already Andres was recommending our next round of craft beer produced by Barranco Beer Company. We could see that interviewing a brewer could be both fun and dangerous at the same time.

Andres is a maverick of a businessman (Which is saying something for those of you that know entrepreneurs) and isn’t afraid to follow his gut, even when partners, common cultural norms towards beer and the government are telling him otherwise. His attitude towards building a business is an attributing factor to why, Barranco Beer Company, a microbrewery and restaurant located in Lima, Peru has been a success.

From left to right: Andrew Bagwell, Andres Lefevre and Kaitlyn Ersek

From left to right: Andrew Bagwell, Andres Lefevre and Kaitlyn Ersek

“My father and uncle had the inspiration for this brewery,” says Andres of Barranco Beer Company. “A love for beer was always in the family. Some kids grow up having a small glass of wine for Christmas with their parents, I grew up with beer,”

Andres’ grandfather worked for the national beer company, Compañía Nacional de Cerveza, owner of Pilsen Callao. It was also the only true Peruvian option in beer at the time. “The problem was that Peruvian Beer just wasn’t that good. My father and Uncle understood that and wanted to work to make it better. They decided to go into business together and asked me to help them brew.”

At first, Barranco Beer Company was designed as a brewery only and the family had no intentions of opening it as a restaurant. They purchased the property and equipment and started testing brews while waiting for government approval to officially open up shop. “But the government wouldn’t let us open.” They didn’t want another alcohol-oriented business in the area.

Too late, Andres and his family already had the brewing equipment, bar and beer ready to go. “So we started the business anyways,” admits Andres with a chuckle. “We shoved all the tanks and supplies in the back of the shop and covered them up until evening. Then we secretly invited the community over for drinks.”

Unfortunately, Barranco Beer Company hasn’t been our only Peruvian business to start up without an official license. The government’s bureaucratic process is lengthy and our entrepreneurs complain that its holding start ups back from opening.

Eventually, the government and the Leferve family came to an agreement. Barranco Beer Company opened as a restaurant and brewery as opposed to an alcohol-only establishment.

Right off the bat, Barranco Beer Company was a success and reeled in a large following of locals and tourists. “But, I wasn’t happy with the beer we were serving,” admits Andres. “I wanted to serve the craft beer styles I loved in The States.”

Despite traditional attitudes that light lager, Pisco and Rum were the only alcohols of import, Andres instinctively believed that Peruvian culture, which prides itself on fine food, would mesh well with craft beer. “Peruvians have such an amazing palate,” says Andres. “I knew that Peruvian pride in food could translate to beer.”

Barranco Beer Company's investors weren't convinced and initially voted against craft beers. Without permission (A common trend?), Andres began releasing a different craft beer every month. Each beer was created with local ingredients like algarrobina, ginger, Peruvian cacao nibs and honey harvested from high altitudes in Cusco.

The craft beers were a hit and investors soon warmed up to the concept.

Andres believes that South America is going to be the next leader in craft beers. “Samuel Adams was a huge inspiration for me. They were the first to introduce craft beer to The States on a large scale.”

The climate faced by Jim Koch when he started Samuel Adams Boston Beer in 1984, was similar to the one faced by Andres two years ago in Lima. For Koch, with only pale lagers from mass-market brewers as an option, he understood that America needed a better brew.  

While traditionally only the National Beer Company manufactured beer in Peru, Andres and new microbrewers in Lima and Arequipa are brewing a craft beer revolution. “Peru went from a culture of anti Pale Ale to a culture that loves it. It’s a huge first step for beer. I would love to do for Peru, what Samuel Adams did for American craft beer.”  

When we talked to Andres he was only in year two of running Barranco Beer Company, but has seen great success to date. He is now selling his craft brewed beer all over Lima and is getting requests from Cusco, Arequipa and other large Peruvian cities.


Andres credits his success to taking a big initial risk by incorporating American style craft beer in Peru. “Many other ideas, cultures and concepts from The States could be very successful here in Latin America, you just need to find the one that clicks.”

ALLPA: "Start Thinking Like An Entrepreneur."

“We entered the textile and jewelry industry by chance,” Says Maria del Carmen De la Fuente of herself and her co-founder Nelly Canepa at ALLPA – a seller of Peruvian textiles and jewelry. “At the time, we were working for an NGO; training local artisans on how to increase the quality of their products and to sell their products to the regional and global markets.”

Maria loved learning the stories of these local artisans and understanding the production process and meaning behind each craft. “The problem was that the artisans needed to stop thinking like artisans and start thinking like entrepreneurs if they were going to make a living for their families.”

That’s when Maria and Nelly started ALLPA. “We partner with local artisans and sell their goods to The States, Canada and Europe. One of our largest customers in the US is the Ten Thousand Villages stores based out of Lancaster, PA.”  

ALLPA prides itself on transparency, excellent service, fair trade, sustainability and good stories. “So long as we maintain those key aspects, ALLPA grows.”

Through their partnership with local artisans, ALLPA provides training to ensure their products have excellent quality, but also to ensure that their artisans know how to run their small businesses efficiently and safely. “In the beginning our classes were simple, like how to pack the products. But it soon developed into teaching them how to improve their technical skills, and how to manage their books and industrial safety techniques.” To ensure their products were high quality and that their artisans were working in a safe and sustainable manner, “we needed to adapt big industry standards to the local artisan markets.”

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

At the end of the day however, “we never know exactly what will sell. Each year we develop 500 new products. We will sell 100 and the rest will stay in our showroom. Yet, over the years, we have learned how to smell what will sell and to develop the kind of quality products the world is looking for.”

Las Vecinas: When Trendy Meets Delicious

When you walk through the hidden door of Las Vecinas in Lima, Peru, the first thing you notice is the smell of freshly ground coffee. Next, you notice the walls strewn in photographs and the trendy, recycled furniture and adornments. Lastly, you might take note that the entire menu is vegetarian and local – a bit of a rarity for Peru and Latin America at large.

Las Vecinas

Zonia Zena is a photographer and world traveler turned café owner. She has always had a huge love for cafes, which stem from studying abroad during University, and thought opening a café in virgin territory (AKA Barranco, Lima, Peru) might provide the cash flow to support her second love: Photography.

“It is beautiful and perfect,” says Zonia of the café. “It has been a lot of work and it was a risk. But, I think when you really believe in something and you enjoy doing it, people react to that. The moment I no longer enjoy owning the café, I’m going to close it down.”

Zonia opened the café three years ago with the help of a family investment. “We were the third café in the area. Now there are many more.” And yet, the vegetarian and recycle theme to Las Vecinas separates it from competitors. “I wanted to create an experience in all the senses, enjoying good organic food in a cozy atmosphere.“

When we asked her what her favorite thing on the menu was, Zonia recommended the La Provenzal Sandwich coupled with the freshly squeezed Mango Lemonade. “It’s a grilled Panini with feta goat cheese, olives and herbs, one of the first sandwiches that were created at the cafe”

Today, Las Vecinas has more than 20,000 followers on Facebook. “About 40% of our customer base are either tourists or expats, the rest are Peruvians.” Most of her customers have come from social media and especially Trip Advisor. “I’m really lucky to have such amazing customers. They truly enjoy the café and the vision I created. That is special and I am proud of that."

Twist: A "Twist" on the American Burger

Tucked within Barranco, a colorful community and former fishtown in Lima, Twist has managed to create good, old fashioned American burgers with a twist of Peruvian influence. On the menu, you will find a delicious alpaca burger (one of Andrew’s personal favorites) and the Barranco Burger with spicy aji based sauced on top. For a couple wayward Americans, we were in burger heaven.  

“We’ve been in business for two years now,” says Jimmy McManners, an British ex-pat and founder of Twist. “When we opened, burger joints weren’t really a thing in Lima and we were able to truly differentiate ourselves from local restaurants. We also opened Twist in the midst of an artisanal beer boom in Lima. And there’s nothing that goes better with a good burger than a good beer” (we second that statement).

Jimmy McManners in front of his delicious menu at Twist. 

Jimmy McManners in front of his delicious menu at Twist. 

Opening a business in Peru was anything but a breeze for Jimmy. “It took us a good two years to obtain a license. Most people will bribe their way through the government bureaucracy but I refused. We wound up asking the mayor for special permission to open the business without a license, so we could start operations.”

Aside from the bureaucratic red tape, Jimmy says, “maintaining amazing service has been a difficulty.” When we prodded him on the subject, he admits that he does all he can to motivate employees. “You get way more from people if you provide a fair wage and treat them well. If you don’t, they will lose their drive or quit. If you lose a good staff member in this business, you are stupid. They are hard to find! Your employees are your best asset.”

Today, competition has increased in Barranco. “four years ago, there were few restaurants here. Now they are opening and closing all the time.” The tourism industry has played a role as more and more tourists flock to Barranco and away from Miraflores. “About 50% of my customers are either tourists or ex-pats,” says Jimmy. “The reason why they are coming to Twist is Trip Advisor.” At the time of our visit, Twist was the third most recommended restaurant in Lima. 

MCKC: Living Life as a Kid and Entrepreneur

We were walking around the small neighborhood of Barranco in Lima, Peru on a busy Saturday.

Barranco is a tranquil part of Lima that is known for its trendy bars, restaurants and beautiful scenery. The streets were crowded with people in the main plaza, listening to a live music show and dancing.

Just down the road we stumbled into a fair called “La Feria” (The Fair in english) where local entrepreneurs sell products and food on weekends.

The most interesting entrepreneur we met that day was Marlon Del Alcazar Ruiz, CEO of MKCK clothing line. Marlon, a senior in high school, had started his men’s apparel clothing line in his free time.

Marlon on left and his girlfriend on right. 

Marlon on left and his girlfriend on right. 

“I had a strong desire to become an independent person and contribute to my school payments. At first, MKCK was more of a hobby than an actual business,” explains Marlon.

Early on, Marlon realized that MKCK could be much more than a hobby. “It was growing faster than I expected and I ended up putting more and more time into the business."

MKCK caters to Peruvian and foreign men from teenage years to early thirties. Marlon focuses on a basic design, with small accents that are inspired by Peruvian culture. For example, one navy colored shirt sported a breast pocket designed with a Nazca Lines textile pattern.

“I really like that I get to create something different. The business helps me get in touch with my creative side and teaches me to be more responsible and organized,” says Marlon.

“Having a business and being in University is a bit of a challenge. Getting time to study is complicated, but I make it work.”

According to Marlon, his biggest challenge is making sure he provides time for MKCK, school and all the fun things in life. “Since I’m not alone in this project, it makes balancing work and life a lot easier.” Marlon’s mom helps sell products at the La Feria when he’s busy with school and Marlon’s cousin, Kenyi helps with delivery and creating new designs. “We all work together as a team.”  

But all in all, Marlon still wants to be a kid, hang out with his friends and play soccer. “I am making sure to live life the way I want it, while being an entrepreneur.”

Drop: A New Development in Wearable Health Technology

“I’m a hungry entrepreneur because I’m desperate to reach my goals. I’ll do whatever it takes to complete them,” explains Tony Cueva Bravo, Co-Founder of Drop, a medical hardware start up in Lima, Peru.

Tony Cueva Bravo

Tony Cueva Bravo

In December 2014, Tony was wrapping up his university career with a major in electrical engineering and started having doubts about his chosen career path.

“I really wanted to contribute to society and I wasn’t sure that as an engineer I would be able to fulfill that goal to my utmost ability.”

He decided to take an entrepreneurship course offered by the University on a whim and instantly fell in love.

“I was WOWed! That class has completely changed my life. I realized that as an entrepreneur I would have leverage and an impact on society.”

For the next few months, Tony began spending afternoons sipping on Starbucks coffee and surfing the internet for his big idea. But, each idea he came up with didn’t seem to fit. That’s when Tony realized his hands were sweating again.

He suffers from hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating, a condition he finds embarrassing and uncomfortable. “What if other people are suffering the same pain as me?” asked Tony. That’s when Drop was born. 

Drop is a portable medical device that reduces excessive sweating by applying small doses of electricity.

Right now, the device is a prototype but Tony expects to launch the product by the end of 2016 in Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

His big hurdle has been registration with Peru’s version of the FDA. “It involves a lot of tests and trials. The product could receive registration in as little as six months or as much as a year.” As Tony looks to markets outside of Peru, he’ll have to overcome registration processes in those countries as well.

Throughout the entire process, Tony’s biggest lesson has been perseverance, “If you love what you are doing and you are passionate about the idea, you will gain the perseverance. Perseverance is key because there are a lot of ups and downs in starting a business. Mistakes will be made.”


Need help with YOUR Start Up? Meet MIT'S Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

Tony says one of the biggest things that has helped him during his start up processes was MIT’s Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, “a nexus connecting entrepreneurs from around the world to the entrepreneurial ecosystem surrounding the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

Entrepreneurs selected are expected to start companies in one week and pitch their idea before a panel of investors. Apply for The MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp here: bootcamp.mit.edu

Merida Romero Art Gallery: "It is for the love of Art"

“My wife and I opened the art gallery four years ago because we wanted to show off Bolivian artists and their talent,” says Jose Miguel Romero, the co-owner of Merida Romero Art Gallery, located in La Paz, Bolivia.

“We wanted to be part of the lives of people who pass our gallery on the street. So, we turned our gallery into a personal experience for visitors, allowing them to look at books of art and choose the music playing in the gallery from an Ipad.”

Merida Romero Art Gallery in La Paz, Bolivia

Merida Romero Art Gallery in La Paz, Bolivia

As we walk around the gallery with Jose, he points out some of his favorite Bolivian artists, like the sculptor Leon Savadra and 87-year-old painter Alfredo Lapla.              

Alfred is one of the most important and representative artists in Bolivia; not only because of the multitude of paintings he has created, but also because of his amazing talent with oil and acrylic paints. Jose proudly tells us that Romero Gallery has the honor of hosting Alfredo Lapla’s last exhibit ever later in October 2015.

Picture of painting by Alfredo Lapla   (Copyright: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g150811-d8180239-Reviews-La_Sala_Art_Design_Gallery)

Picture of painting by Alfredo Lapla  

(Copyright: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g150811-d8180239-Reviews-La_Sala_Art_Design_Gallery)

Earlier this year, Jose expanded the Romero name and opened a new art gallery in a high-end mall in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

“Selling in a mall is a completely new experience for us,” says Jose. “We are seeing if people will react well to the concept.” With 5-meter high paintings and large abstract sculptures, the exhibit is drawing people in and doing well.

“Santa Cruz is a tropical, almost jungle-like setting and the people are very eccentric! We are getting amazing reactions from the abstract work in the exhibit.”

At the end of the day, “our goal is not to just sell art in our galleries,” reminds Jose. “It is to promote art. Merida Romero is not just a business for my wife and I, it is so much more than that, it is a love of art.

Unique: It's all about the fashion!

With walls covered in hand crafted boulder hats, knit alpaca scarves, trendy sweaters and ethnic jewelry, the brand name Unique describes the tienda perfectly. Founder Maria Stach is a veteran entrepreneur. “I used to own a restaurant,” says Maria. “Then one day, I woke up and suddenly being in the restaurant business no longer appealed to me the way it used to. I started looking for other businesses that would fit my personality. The concept behind Unique came naturally to me because I have a real love and passion for handcrafts.” The pieces in Unique are designed by Maria and made by local artisans.

Kaitlyn Ersek on left, Maria Stach on right.

Kaitlyn Ersek on left, Maria Stach on right.

“My biggest challenge was switching from the restaurant industry to the fashion industry. I had to learn a completely different industry and way of running a business.”  For example, it took Maria some time to find the right artisans that would collaborate with her on designs, deliver on time and create a quality product.

Another big problem Maria faced was the location of her store. While the best locations for shops is the main drag in La Paz’s tourist district, Maria’s store is a few blocks away from the main shopping corridor. “My location hurts business. I need to constantly be handing out flyers and getting referrals from customers. My webpage didn’t seem to help matters, but Facebook and Trip Advisor have been extremely useful.”

While being an entrepreneur can be a challenge, “if you believe in yourself, you can make your dreams come true,” states Maria.

Check out Kaity’s finds at Unique! A cholita, inspired felt hat.

Andrew Bagwell on left, Kaitlyn Ersek on right with Unique's felt hat. 

Andrew Bagwell on left, Kaitlyn Ersek on right with Unique's felt hat.