It's always a great pleasure to follow the initiatives of our Masters Alumni and to see how their studies at ALTIS have benefited their career paths and current businesses. We happened to see this video, taken from a broadcast of the Ecuadorian TV channel Telamazonas, in which our alumna Gabriela Sarmiento was interviewed. We were overjoyed to see how her business, the secondhand fashion shop Usa Reusa, is thriving.
Gabriela joined the Masters course as part of the 2014-15 cohort. She was 25, with an academic background in international trade, previous work experience in the same sector but with the dream, one day, "to become my own boss".
During the Master she became increasingly interested in both the entrepreneurial and the socially sustainable aspects of business. For her action project, she developed a business plan aimed at involving unemployed women in a cooperative cleaning-service initiative, to provide them with an income and more independence. This first project did not go ahead, but the idea of establishing an entrepreneurial venture persisted and became Usa Reusa.
"Being part of the generation of people who practice and encourage consumption of responsible fashion that damages the planet as little as possible is our motivation. We firmly believe that recycled and social fashion can be one of the solutions to generate positive changes at an environmental, social and cultural level."
This is the value proposition of the venture.
We contacted Gabriela and discovered more about her business.
When did you start your business and how do you run it?
I started my business in May 2016, as a project, and in December of the same year as a formal business with the store that we opened. It's a family business: I run it with my mother, and I also have external advisors, for marketing and graphic design.
What difficulties are you facing and [tricky question to ask a startupper], can you live off your business?
It's hard to be an entrepreneur and it's a lonely path. You always have many obstacles to overcome and lots of times you will feel that you want to quit, so I think the most difficult aspect is to be persistent. Nevertheless if things keep going as well as they are going now, yes, I can live off this business.
In the video interview you mention your "maestria" at ALTIS and your Italian experience as an inspiration for your venture. To what extent did the Master help you?
Yes, the year spent in Italy was useful: we were most of the time talking about business models, business cases with a social impact and entrepreneurship. It strengthened my conviction that I wanted to create something on my own and become my own boss. It was something that I was thinking about most of the time.
In regard to what was most useful for me, I can't pick one single aspect: everything that I learned helped me somehow. Of course, what I have used the most is the Business Model Canvas that we studied in the Entrepreneurship course.
You mention and highlight the social and sustainability aspects of your venture.
Well, we are promoting the idea that it is good to use second hand clothes: we are not just extending the useful life of a garment, which has an environmental impact, but we are also helping women to have an extra income to take home and we are donating part of our inventory to rural communities in our country.
Usa Reusa: a small but perfect synthesis of a financially sustainable entrepreneurial and managerial initiative, which highlights social and environmental aspects and values.
And to Gabriela…. adelante!!!