On March 8, the International Women’s Day was celebrated, under the struggles for equality, recognition, and despoliation of their civil rights.
A recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) notes that the countries of these regions have made a significant progress in designing and coordinating gender equality policies, however, their current economic system is not yet sufficient to overcome these imbalances.
According to data from Banco Mundial 1 out of every 3 small, medium or large companies on the planet have women as the main stakeholders, the good news is that Latin America and the Caribbean lead the ranking of female participation in the ownership of companies.
Among the 50 countries analyzed in the world, Latin America is the region with the highest percentage of women who are encouraged to start their own business having Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia as the countries that lead this ranking; according to a study conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association.
At Punto de Fusión we would like to honor the presence of women in the candle industry, especially those who actively contribute to our Association. Let us introduce you to four outstanding members of ALAFAVE, their vision, talent and dedication makes them a role model for future generations.
I always look for balance between being a mother and an entrepreneur.
As the result to the lack of electricity in a large part of the country and the need of lighting by a bast majority of the population; Velas Frangus was established in 1979 in Costa Rica by Idalié Bogantes and Álvaro Morera.
Along the way, tragedy struck this pioneering company, not once but twice: A fire put to ruins all the facilities in 1999 and later in 2004 the murder of its founding father devasted Velas Frangus.
The company managed to overcome these unfortunate events by developing decorative and aromatic products, strengthening its brand locally and exploring ways to export their products. Behind this success is Francella Morera, who alongside her mother now manages the business.
“I remember I was 10 years old and would come home after school running to make my own candles using chocolate molds, I painted them with nail polish, this is how my sense of entrepreneurship awakened. Although we have been through very difficult situations, the good memories, and the desire to continue the legacy of my parents, have been my main motto throughout the years.”
In 2020 Velas Frangus achieved the “Women Owned Business” certification granted by the international organization, We Connect, which recognizes the entrepreneurial role of women in the world.
She says that currently 80% of all candle purchases worldwide are made by women. “We tend to be more detailed and emotional, we are aware of the special dates and the harmony of the home, so the candles, with the warmth of their light, are a fantastic way to create delicate ambience that connect us with our interior; in addition, they are ideal for decorating and aromatize every corner”.
Currently, in Costa Rica there are several public and private initiatives to empower women through professional training and the promotion of entrepreneurial initiatives, however, Morera says that there is still a collective thought that limits women to be housewives, making them believe that they cannot run a business because they neglect their families.
“It is not easy, at times it is necessary to put family and the company on a scale, but I have learned to balance motherhood and my professional career. In addition, I am convinced that we, the entrepreneurs, are paving the path for the women of this century, showing them that we can move our families forward and at the same time fulfill our individual goals.”
Finally, she expresses with pride the fact that she was the first woman to serve on the board of directors at ALAFAVE in 2006 and the great challenges of organizing the 2008 conference in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
“During those years I shared experiences with people who impacted my personal and professional life and who taught me a lot about the candle industry; now that I have returned to the Association in the position of treasurer, I love being able to give back to this industry a part of what has been given to me,” she concluded.
The entrepreneurial woman focuses on her goals and lives her dream
This biologist and business leader at Orchidia Fragrances, a fragrance manufacturer based in Downers Grove, Illinois, attended the World Candle Congress in 2010 for the first time, and ever since, she has remained actively linked with the industry, she even was elected to take office as a director in the Association and represents the suppliers on the board of directors at ALAFAVE.
“Out of all the sectors I attend as a fragrance supplier, candles have a very special place in my heart because my grandfather was an artisanal candle manufacturer, making candles with beeswax. That magical bond is always present when participating in the developments of my colleagues.”
She considers that the attention to detail through all stages of the process are a defining characteristic of many of the women in this industry, which manifests itself in a careful selection of style, packaging, the way of doing the marketing; everything has that feminine and careful touch that at the end gives the product a “soul”.
As an account manager for her company she has the responsibility to develop new businesses, attract customers and meet the requirements of current ones, however, she really enjoys working in the laboratory learning about new formulations, supporting research in a collaborative way with the technical team and at the same time listening to her colleagues to acquire new knowledge. “I’m restless by nature and I like to learn, it’s a way to be proactive and support the team.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to this professional dynamic and Daniela reveals how the boundaries between her home and office hours tent to merge, however, she strives to maintain the balance between the two roles, “there are days where work is extended and lunchtime becomes a light dinner”.
When asked about the role of women in business life, she drops the following sentence emphatically: “I don’t think we’re seen less, maybe we’re ignored more, because we’ve always been present.”
She believes that entrepreneurial women are those who drives her team and her family to grow, to be better, they lead the way by brainstorming ideas and offers them without ego or fear that someone else will execute them, the strong woman who takes the risk, focuses on her goals and lives her dream.
She comments how the fear of being minorities, or not belonging to certain established standards and stereotypes, has caused women to miss opportunities, but that all this has been changing as society has become more inclusive. “We must continue to educate and be knowledgeable to completely break with inequalities of gender, race and embrace diversity,” she concludes.
The eminent sixth sense helps us
Cera y Forma S.A. de C.V. was established in 1996 in Monterrey, Mexico from the hand of two entrepreneurs eager to reflect their passion for fragrances, art and details. Patricia González, general manager at the company, shares her impressions of the role of women entrepreneurs in a country with an entrepreneurial and productive tradition, which strives to achieve a more egalitarian society in terms of gender.
“I’ve been in the industry for 25 years, following my passion for fragrances and love for candles. Currently, I coordinate everything related to the management of human talent, the production and creation of new products”.
Her company mainly manufactures scented and decorative candles under the trademark Chacel, intended for a medium-high market, so they claim to have a careful control in the variety of fragrances, the use of high-quality raw materials and outstanding containers.
“I think that the fact that candles are very connected with spirituality, decoration and beauty, can make them more feminine, but we are clear that candles are not only linked to women and we also consider that in our developments.”
She mentions how female sensitivity can be a determining element in the daily challenge of running her business: “The eminent sixth sense that we women have, helps. In these challenging times characterized by a constant transformation, the ability to feel and put yourself in each other’s shoes, which, although not exclusive to women, helps us a lot on a day-to-day basis.”
According to the 2020 global gender gap index published by the World Economic Forum, which measures the difference in opportunities for women and men in terms of health, the economy and political indicators, Mexico rose from 50th to 25th place in 2 years, which is a clear indicator of the work being done there.
In this regard, González refers to how the participation of women in the business life is increasing and that is the reason that at her company, they promote entrepreneurial initiatives led by women. “Our social responsibility program is focused on promoting entrepreneurship and currently, of the 5 projects we support, 4 are managed by women. This is a great satisfaction for us because we know the importance this represents, and we are excited to feel part of this movement that contributes to breaking paradigms.
My family is my top priority
Ingrid Ventura transmits professionalism, self-improvement, and solidarity wherever she is measured.
This Guatemalan, pharmacist by profession, researcher and with higher studies in public health, one day decided to do a post-graduate degree in business administration when she felt that she should be better prepared to take charge of Velas Nazareno, the family business founded in 1979 by her father and in which she had been involved since childhood, along with her two sisters.
” I have been surrounded by candles all my life. There are customers who remember us being by my dad’s side handing out his product, accompanying him and helping as best as we could at a young age. As I got more involved under my dad’s leadership, I began to modernize the company, which brought some fights and arguments; now that I’m in charge, I appreciate the great learning these fights brought me for business and for life.”She comments that the consumption of candles in Guatemala and the management of the businesses associated with it, have traditionally been more linked to man, especially for its relationship with religious syncretism and rituals linked to the cultural heritage of the country.
However, when aesthetics and emotionality go above their traditional and cultural character, consumption and business moves almost exclusively to the field of women.
“We perceive that a business run by women leads to a more empathetic communication, it is less rigid. I have seen how my colleagues in the office play psychologist roles and share the joys and sorrows of our clients.
At the same time, she tells us about the difficulty of achieving a balance in her family and professional role, however, for her; the most important reason why she works hard every day is not the business itself, but her family. “You shouldn’t lose the focus. My family is my top priority,” she says firmly.
According to the report of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association, Guatemala ranks 4th in female entrepreneurial activity, driven by the difficulty’s women encounter in accessing a labor market with limited supply and the lack of educational training in many rural areas, among others.
In this regard, Ventura comments that, in a Guatemalan home typical of different social classes, it is normal for the role of leader to be taken by the man automatically; and in some way, this obeys to the “macho” customs that still persist in the society.
“Even my dad, who only had us his daughters, didn’t think we were good enough to lead the business and he wanted to teach a cousin before us; he told me that the business world was exhausting and he didn’t want that burden for me. I managed to earn his trust; fifteen years later after his death with the support of my family and my sisters, we continue to grow and position ourselves in a good place” she concludes.