Maria Josefina: empowering women entrepreneurs in Latin America

junio 9, 2020

Y&Y Fellow Andrea Rangel is a Mexican economist and founder of María Josefina. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Universidad de Monterrey and got recognized for her social project and the potential impact of this amazing initiative. When in school, Andrea got involved with volunteer experiences and had the chance not just to visit other places such as Peru and India but also to study in China and the US to improve her management skills to run her social business.  

Andrea recognizes her privilege and knows she had many opportunities in life, but this is not the case for most women in her country and Latin America this is why Andrea wanted to work with women to provide more equality. On a trip to Peru, she had the idea to help poor single mothers to improve their life quality. Her team developed a strategy to harvest, process, and sell vegetables in the form of manufactured products. When she got back to Mexico she decided that she would continue on the path to help women change their reality and reinforce the important role women have in society.

The inspiration to start her social business came from working with an organization called Kimakul. She started to help vulnerable women by coaching them for a few years. With little success, she decided to reach out to mentors in college to find a better way to impact women entrepreneurs. Andrea took classes to help with the correct methodology and found a mentor to help her with social entrepreneurship foundations. Andrea developed her business plan and proved methodology and in 2017 she won the “Social Transformation Lab” a contest. Then, she could build the pilot of the program for María Josefina, helping women with no opportunities to become more independent. 

María Josefina is a platform that promotes women entrepreneurs living in a vulnerable situation. The platform transforms them into formal microentrepreneurs by integrating them into high-value market chains in order to improve their quality of life and generate income. You can find more about María Josefina on their Facebook page.

Today, Maria Josefina helps women and takes them out of extreme poverty. Andrea mentioned that in some cases those women feel invisible and sometimes desperate to make any income. She is currently working with 36 women but ultimately hopes to impact 100 women by the end of the year. María Josefina by now helped to transform the lives of 42 women. The “Josefinas” are becoming more confident women that can speak for themselves and start a whole new life. Andrea also wants to expand her company to 2 other cities in Mexico: Saltillo and Ciudad Victoria. 

Andrea acts as the CEO of María Josefina, working with volunteers. She faces challenging aspects of running a social business, especially managing risk. Some people don’t understand why she would lend money to women, but she explained that they have no other option but to pay back 100% interest to outsiders. Feelings and questions come every day to her: “What if they don’t pay back?” “What if they can’t overcome their problems?” “What if I fail?” But so far all of the women have paid back the loans. 

She keeps motivated to continue her venture when things become hard by being part of those women’s success. Josefinas are more confident and Andrea is so proud of their success. By partnering with other organizations, she has the opportunity to not be seen as a stranger and start her work in new communities. In addition, she can scale María Josefina’s work. 

Y&Y supports Andrea by providing mentors that help her gather indicators and show her how to measure impact. With the formal measurements, Andrea now has numbers to show the investors and be more attractive. Also, by being part of Y&Y Fellowship, people get more interested in general about her work, so she improved her pitch. Today, María Josefina has 5 investors from the transformation lab that put money in the company.

Andrea gave important advice to other entrepreneurs as they start this journey: “Fall in love with the problem and not with the solution, so you can adapt. Helping others makes you a better person”. She believes social programs tailored to the needs of these women are needed, and social entrepreneurship is an important (but not the only) solution. We hope Andrea can fulfill her childhood dream and become Mexico’s president with all the time and resources she needs to defend this important cause.

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