Becoming an immigrant entrepreneur in Ecuador


Immigrant Venezuelan

The ongoing political conflict in Venezuela has displaced millions of people, including Mirna Olimpia Leal Ramos, who moved to Ecuador with her three adult children after her husband died.

The 53-year-old now lives in the small province of Nueva Loja in Sucumbíos, Ecuador, surrounded by nature. She has her own business and continues to grow it. But the road has not been an easy one.

When Mirna arrived in Ecuador four years ago, she found that although some people welcomed her family and unfamiliar culture, not everyone shared those sentiments. People sometimes told her to “go back to your country” and her family became accustomed to camouflaging themselves. Even though she had her immigrant documentation, she found it difficult to get work.

Things started to change for Mirna after she got involved in a series of projects, programs and workshops run by Cuso International, and partners Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR). This includes soft skills training, financial education, digital marketing, and business plan development. She also received specific training in how to use preservatives.

Now, her business Mundo de Tentaciones (World of temptations), is expanding. She produces and delivers a variety of salt and sweet snacks, such as tequeños, churros, empanadas and breads. She also provides a catering service for private parties.

“It has been hard,” said Mirna, “but the organizations have supported me and they gave me a good push in the business I have. I think it is very good.”

Cuso International’s Sustainable Colombian Opportunities for Peacebuilding and Employment (SCOPE) project also gave her financial assistance to acquire a kneader and mixer, and a laminator to produce the product in her home.

“Between the payment of rent and other payments, we didn’t have enough for the tools and materials we needed,” said Mirna. “With the support I had, it helped me a lot. I used to do everything by hand, but now thanks to the machines I have been able to speed up production.”

Mirna has been able to expand her business, and her daughter, who had difficulty finding a job, has joined her. Mirna focuses on the production side of the business, while her daughter works on marketing, and attends workshops and events.

In the future, Mirna hopes her business will continue to grow and that they can find their own physical space to set up shop. She also hopes that she will be able to give all her children a salary, which would mean they do not have to look for work in other states.

“It is a very good support, and I am very grateful that they collaborate with us because without these institutions or without this support, it would stagnate. With this support I feel that I have been able to work a little more rested, with better conditions and more time,” said Mirna.

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