Fundació Un Sol Món case histories

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Amanda Estrada. Restaurant owner. Pollo Mania's. 47 years old. Colombia.

I'm very happy with my business In five years' time, I'll have a restaurant on the Gran Vía in Madrid

Amanda Estrada and her husband left their hometown of Pereira, in the coffee-growing area of Colombia, eleven years ago. There they ran a catering business, but the situation of insecurity in the country made them decide to emigrate. They chose Madrid because the husband, a big bullfighting fan, already knew people in the city.

Their dream was to set up a similar business in Spain to the one they had in Colombia, but their savings shrunk dramatically when converted into pesetas. This and the fact that they weren't legally registered put a hold on their initial business hopes.

Amanda and her husband started work, but they never gave up on their dream, and three years ago it finally began to take shape. Although their dream was ambitious, the advice they received from Trans-formando and Caixa Catalunya's Un Sol Món Foundation helped them get on their feet and draw up a business plan in line with their possibilities.

With the €19,700 they were lent by the Un Sol Món Foundation (part of Caixa Catalunya's Social Work) in early 2006 by means of a microcredit, their long-awaited dream started to take shape in the form of a restaurant named Pollo Mania's, where from Tuesday to Sunday a melting pot of different nationalities gather to enjoy chicken cooked to a secret recipe known only to Amanda. The business is going very well, although it was tight going at first and required a lot of sacrifice. The restaurant takes up all Amanda's time and a good part of her husband's. Amanda dedicates herself entirely to running the restaurant, assisted by her husband only in the evenings and at weekends, since he still works as an IT technician.

The central location, only three streets from Alcalá, means they have a wide variety of customers, ranging from elderly people from the neighbourhood, who have food delivered to their home at weekends, to emigrants from all over the world, although most are Latin American, who come from Ávila and Alcalá de Henares. Amanda's delicious chicken dish is very popular in many Latin American countries, so Ecuadorians and Dominicans are amongst her regulars, although it's Colombians who fill this charming Madrid restaurant on weekend evenings to chat and reminisce.

Amanda's initial dreams were ambitious, but thanks to the advice she received -key to getting a microcredit - she resized things to make them more feasible, although she firmly states that "in five years' time I'll have a restaurant on the Gran Vía". In response to the question that journalists never ask, she replied "I'm very happy with my business."

Marc Buitano. Luthier. MB Guitars. 40 years old. Chile

They're giving money to an artist I want to be ready for the music that people will be making in the years to come, creating new instruments for special musicians

Marc Buitano was born in Osorno and became a musician in Chile. In the 1990s, however, he discovered his real passion: making stringed instruments, or in other words, working as a luthier.

In Chile he had his own small workshop for making and repairing instruments. However, six years ago, he decided to move to Madrid to increase his expertise and skills, since the Spanish capital is home to some of the finest luthiers in the world. He struggled at first in this closed world: no-one knew him and he still wasn't legally registered in Spain. He slowly managed to get going by working with other luthiers and took part in a project to make a jazz guitar for the French market. He wanted to make a name for himself as a luthier in Spain in his own right, though, and make his own instruments. So in 2003 he launched a project to design and manufacture a hybrid classical-electric guitar and presented the project at the Madrid Innovation Fair. The project was very well received by musicians, a number of whom placed orders, and he decided to take the next big step and set up his own company. At the end of 2005 he started his adventure in the business world; as he himself says, "Things look very different on paper to how they are in reality."

He drew up a business plan practically on his own, but every time he presented it to different organisations and banking institutions, he was always turned down. They thought it was too risky for someone with no guarantor. He was at the point of despair when he turned to Trans-formando and Caixa Catalunya's Un Sol Món Foundation, who did believe in him and his project. The advice and training he received were key, since, as he put it, -this was about giving money to an artist-. The fact that his project was scrutinised by others who thought it was feasible reassured him greatly. He finally set the business up with some savings in the form of material and tools, plus €18,000 lent to him by Caixa Catalunya's Un Sol Món Foundation to fit out his luthier's studio. As ever, it was hard going at first: it was all repairs and no orders for instruments, which meant his income was erratic and insufficient. However, he decided to teach his trade to others, which marked the business's turning point. He currently has three apprentices learning how to make his electric guitar, and for the summer he's got four apprentices waiting to make their own instruments. In the near future, he plans to take on someone to handle the repairs, so he can concentrate on teaching and his main goal: designing and making new instruments for special musicians. His dream is to be ready for the innovative cultural music fusion he sees ahead, and -why not? - to make a guitar for Vicente Amigo.

Jaraguay Porto and Flávia Onofre

Handicraft tradespeople. Kuari Kuara. 38 and 35 years old. Brazil

For immigrant women over 35 with children the only door is a microcredit

The lack of business training hit us hard

Jaraguay and Flávia are Brazilian, the Badia and São Paolo respectively, but they met in Barcelona. They both left their home country for love, as their husbands and children were Catalan.

Before they set up their business, they hadn't had any business experience; in Brazil they worked as an engineer and an architect. In Barcelona, their work bore no relationship to their professions and made it difficult for them to combine their work and family life. This, together with some previous experience in marketing handicrafts in Brazil, led them to consider the possibility of setting up their own business two years ago. They are passionate about their country and are keen to do what they can to promote handicrafts produced by disadvantaged women in their country. They contacted the Red Cross and Caixa Catalunya's Un Sol Món Foundation to help them give life to their idea of setting up a small shop to sell fair-trade handicraft products. Their business plan took shape and they realised they needed to obtain finance for the project. However, for immigrant women over 35 with children the only door is a microcredit. They tried to get credit on their own, but without a guarantor they found it impossible. The Un Sol Món Foundation gave them a microcredit for €20,000 in June 2006 and their business adventure got under way. It was more difficult than expected at first, and they sorely felt their lack of business experience, even though they were receiving advice and help. They have leant their lesson, though, and won't make the same mistakes again. They believe they are currently at a turning point and are relaunching their business. Flávia is in Brazil with the craftspeople from whom they buy their products, helping them improve their access to the Catalan market, making use of the experience she has gained over these months. Their products include a line of handmade bathing suits from Brazil. They are also hoping to move into the field of distributing the handicrafts they market to other retailers in the country. They now know how to go about this successfully: they need to invest time and effort in training and be prepared to tackle any unforeseen hurdles which appear along the way.

Notes and references Fundació Un Sol Món presentation