25 Years of ALAFAVE and the Beginning of a Family

Twenty-five years ago, three visionaries had the idea of bringing together candle manufacturers from Latin America with global industry suppliers with the aim of optimizing the production processes of factories on the continent, improving product quality, and generating business opportunities. And so, after much effort, in 1999, in Cancun, Mexico, the Latin American Candle Manufacturers Association (ALAFAVE) was born.

Behind this entrepreneurial initiative, there was also a desire for integration, to promote the exchange of experiences and personal connections with colleagues from other latitudes. Twenty-five years later, it can be said that ALAFAVE is more than just an association with a professional and business objective, ALAFAVE is a large family.

In this Punto de Fusion edition, we are pleased to have these three visionaries: José Luis Montes, William Muench, and Ismael Rivero, narrating the story of those early years, the challenges that arose, the objectives that have been achieved, and outlining some ideas for the future. Likewise, we bring the testimony of their first executive director, Malen Sid, who helped lay the initial foundations upon which the Association we now know was built.

José Luis Montes:

“Much of the knowledge that many Latin American manufacturers possess is thanks to ALAFAVE.”

What motivated you to start this whole movement?
When I began traveling for Bareco Products as the LATAM sales manager in 1996, I realized that many colleagues faced the same problems I had encountered when working in my family’s factory in Mexico. Additionally, I had been a member of the board of directors of the North American Candle Association (NCA), and I saw that we could do something similar, providing information to our colleagues to help them improve their processes.

How did you start shaping this idea?

In July 1998, I decided to organize a conference in Cancun and approached my friends from OMP, Pabilos Comerciales, AromaTech, and Penreco to cover the basic expenses. All presentations were technical, as we made a pact not to use the podium for selling. This call was a success, and we achieved a participation of 105 attendees.

After this, Ismael Rivero, William Muench, and I volunteered to follow up, although upon returning to our countries, this cooled down a bit. But in January-February 1999, I started receiving calls from people asking when the conference for that year would be.

How did the first ALAFAVE board come about?

In February 1999, I met with Ismael in Venezuela and then, at the NCA spring meeting, we met with William to start shaping a document that we would present in Cancun at the end of July. At that second event, Ismael presented the idea of the association, and the attendees immediately appointed people for the first board of directors, choosing Ismael as president, William as vice president, and me as treasurer.

We agreed to meet in Miami to legally establish ALAFAVE in the United States, open an account with the USD 3,000 left from the conference, plus the membership fees that the board members had paid. Similarly, we agreed that Malen Samper would serve as executive secretary.

How do you feel 25 years later?

The fact that a significant portion of the growth and knowledge that many manufacturers in Latin America possess today has stemmed, directly or indirectly, from ALAFAVE fills me with a great deal of satisfaction, as does the achievement of the World Congresses. Today, I remain committed to the idea of promoting the use of candles in the region and advocating for our industry, and that should be ALAFAVE’s guiding principle for the years to come.

William Muench:

“We managed to make a name for ourselves in the global industry representing manufacturers from the continent.”

How did you get involved with the idea of forming an association?

The first comments I received were towards the end of 1996 when, at an NCA meeting, José Luis Montes asked me if it would be feasible to form something similar in Latin America, and I told him that I saw it as a great opportunity and that he had my support.

In 1998, I participated in the reunion in Cancun to give a presentation on NCA activities and the technical issues pressing the global candle industry. It was during this reunion that the first intention arose to join together and form a Latin American candle association.

When was ALAFAVE born?

The following year (1999) at the second meeting in Cancun, our colleague Ismael Rivero from Venezuela came prepared with the name ALAFAVE, a logo, and a lot of enthusiasm to form the association. With the unanimous support of the meeting participants, the first ALAFAVE executive committee was formed with Ismael as president, José Luis as treasurer, and me as vice president, and we were urged to convene the next congress for 2000.

What achievements do you highlight in these 25 years?

The association’s growth in terms of membership is significant, as is the dissemination of technical information in Spanish and the strengthening and cooperation among candlemaking colleagues, which did not exist before. Likewise, we managed to make a name for ourselves in the global industry representing manufacturers from the continent, and from that position, we drove the creation and organization of the World Congress meetings with our sister associations in the United States and Europe.

What are the challenges for the coming years?

We must work together with sister associations (NCA and ECMA) to defend the candle industry with one voice, engaging in the commissioning of scientific studies that support, with solid data, the defense of our industry against accusations and false information. We must continue to disseminate technical information and promote collaboration among colleagues to improve the quality and safe use of candles. Also, encourage creativity and innovation and promote candle consumption in Latin America to grow the creation of regional sources of employment.

An additional comment…

I want to highlight the unconditional support of Malen Samper in those early days, lending a corner of her office for the creation of ALAFAVE; she was a key piece in the success of that second congress in Miami, with which more solid foundations began to be laid. At the end of 2000, ALAFAVE hired its first administrator, the much-loved María Sánchez, who contributed greatly to building the family we are today.

Ismael Rivero:

“We wanted to promote the exchange of personal and business experiences.”

How do you remember those initial meetings?

In 1998, I received an invitation from José Luis to attend a meeting of candle manufacturers in Cancun, as a prelude to an integration idea. From the outset, the proposal seemed very interesting to me, but I found it inconvenient for such a call to be sponsored only by raw material suppliers, without representation from candle manufacturers themselves to define the objectives.

What were the objectives set?

At that emblematic meeting in Cancun, the objectives were aimed at promoting candle manufacturing businesses in Latin America, fostering technological exchange between manufacturers and industry suppliers, and naturally, sharing personal and business experiences to enhance this beautiful centuries-old activity. Additionally, William Muench, who was part of the NCA board of directors and supported the initiative from the very beginning, became a stronghold for the creation of ALAFAVE, a bond was established with the NCA and by extension also with the European association, which gave us the necessary global projection and guidance for our first steps, at that time.

What were the first years of ALAFAVE like?

The beginnings were highly prolific in terms of organizational matters and projects to serve the industry. The Technical Information Library, training workshops, and dissemination of knowledge, our newsletter “Punto de Fusion” and its “Ask Dr. Vela” section, social gatherings, camaraderie, and friendships arising from our encounters are among the most notable elements. It is necessary to highlight the invaluable support of Malen Sid in the early hours of ALAFAVE’s birth, before the hiring of our dear and remembered María Sánchez, Executive Secretary of the Association from late 2000 until 2013.

What is ALAFAVE’s work for the coming years?

A quarter of a century, in times of profound technological changes like the ones we are experiencing, is an extensive lifespan for any company or organization. The current reality is very different from that of the men and women who led the initial construction of ALAFAVE. Our regional economy has limited growth expectations, and the investment costs for the renewal of technological equipment are only within reach of a few.

We must take advantage of this anniversary to gather the ideas and opinions of those who now lead candle companies in our countries and derive from this research some projects to complement the journey of the next 25 years because, definitively, our role as an Association is to continue promoting candle consumption, defending the industry, and strengthening the technical and business competencies of manufacturers on the continent.

Malen Sid:

“At that time, almost everything was done by phone, and I would call consulates looking for manufacturers in each country.”

How did you get involved with the project?

I was working for a wick supply company, and for some reason, I contacted José Luis, who mentioned that some suppliers were organizing a meeting in Cancun for their Latin American clients, so I decided to participate. This repeated the following year, but with the vision of forming an Association, and I participated on behalf of the same supplying company.

When did you become part of ALAFAVE?

I was living in Miami, where I had a small warehouse storing some supplies for distributing my products in the area, and since they had decided to place Miami as the headquarters of the Association, they asked if I could help, so at some point, my office also became ALAFAVE’s office.

Then, when it was decided that the next conference would be in Miami, all the responsibility for organizing the event fell on me automatically. I remember I rallied everyone I knew—employees, family, friends—to help me tackle this challenge. At that time, almost everything was done by phone, and I would call consulates looking for data on candle manufacturers in countries to invite them to participate. That congress was fabulous and was a success with over 100 participants.

What was the dynamic of the first board of directors like?

We worked wonderfully. Ismael was always very formal and firm in his positions; when I said “A,” he said “B” (laughs), José Luis always cracking jokes and in good spirits, William sharing stories; it was a very nice group, always very united to grow ALAFAVE. I remember that period with great affection and a lot of learning. Then Maria, who was lovely, was hired and I started to disengage from working for ALAFAVE, because I had already taken on responsibilities with Sao Vitor.

What do you dream for ALAFAVE?

I would like ALAFAVE to grow much more and have a greater presence in the region, through delegations or committees in each country, so that knowledge about candles expands even further and entrepreneurship is locally encouraged for the new generations.

It is true that political and economic problems in countries make this path difficult, but nowadays, with virtuality, it is much easier to attract new members and disseminate information.

As for me, I will always be connected to this project, and it excites me to see it now entering adulthood, after having held it in my arms like a baby.

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