From dream to reality: helping small business owners thrive in Colombia


Woman behind store counter

When Clara Inés Castaño Cortéz lost her job, she wasn’t sure how she was going to provide for her young children. To bridge the gap, she turned to baking as a quick way to make some extra cash.

She quickly became known among her friends for her Arroz con Leche, a sweet rice pudding dish, and discovered a new passion in the process.

“I fell in love with doing the pastries, cooking and everything,” says Clara. She began to research how to develop a business plan and that’s when she learned of entrepreneurship workshops offered by Cuso International in Cali, Colombia.

Aside from providing training in business development, financial management and marketing, Cuso connected Clara with other small business owners who had been in similar circumstances. Meeting and learning from other women entrepreneurs was just the push Clara needed to realize her dream.

“The main thing I got was overcoming my fears of having my own place. I saw that other people were doing that. Some of them were in an advanced part of their business. And I just went for it,” says Clara. “It gave me the confidence to open up my own business because sometimes, as a micro or small business owner, you don’t think you can make it.”

What began as a tiny home-based dessert business run out of her kitchen is now a bustling storefront in Cali, Colombia. La Vaca Rosada—The Pink Cow—is a lively and dynamic cake shop and event space. And although Clara is very happy for her success, it’s not the thing she’s most proud of.

“What I’m most proud of is that I’m giving a good example to my kids. I’m showing them that through hard work and dedication, you can achieve things with resilience and hard work.”

You can help more women like Clara gain the skills they need to thrive by making a donation in her name today. As the global pandemic continues, Cuso’s work is more important than ever.