Story - Julissa Rojas Flores

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Many sleepless nights

I’m living in Lima, the capital of Peru, and our society is dominated by men. We have a macho culture here.People are not used to seeing a woman at the head of a company. And it’s even more difficult when it comes to the operational part.You know, we make cardboard boxes and we have machines to do a lot of the work. The problem was that machines belong to the “natural domain” of men and our mechanics were reluctant to follow my orders.

It really took some time before they understood that I knew what I was talking about and that they really got to trust me.

When it comes to accounting, sales, marketing, and financing, it’s much easier. It’s acceptable for a woman to do these things, as they are considered to be much more feminine occupations.

I started my business eight years ago. I wanted to create my own job and didn’t want to be dependent on somebody else. I had limited capital and, after much hesitation, I decided to invest in my own company. I asked a friend to join me because I needed someone who knew the business. She had a lot of experience in the field and I felt stronger with her on board. It’s good to have someone you can discuss things with. When you take your decisions alone, you might miss out on things.

Big and Famous Clients

We have twelve employees now, who produce cardboard boxes for shoes, snacks, shirts, and labels. In fact, whatever people ask us to make, we will always try to oblige. Our biggest customers are famous shoe factories, but we also serve small, unknown entrepreneurs who just want a nice box for packaging their products. We also sell our boxes on the famous market of Caquetá, a district of Lima.

I don’t advertise much. Most of our clients find us through recommendations and references. That makes me very proud, because it means we’re doing a good job.

I had Sleepless Nights

When I started, I was afraid my business could fail. Yes, I had sleepless nights. But things turned out well and now I’m glad I took the difficult decision.

Of course not everything runs smoothly. Last year we were affected by El Niño, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides. It was the worst weather-related calamity in twenty years and almost hundred people died. It also meant that many of our customers had to suspend their orders.

Lately, government instability has been causing constant changes in the exchange rate and this affects our revenue. Our president, who was elected in 2016, was accused of corruption and faced an impeachment procedure. However, congress decided he could stay on. As a former World Bank economist, we thought he would bring prosperity, but because of all this political mayhem, we’re now paying more for our materials. That’s why I hope that in the future I will be able to buy my supplies at more reasonable prices in countries like Chile and the United States. That would really improve our margins.

A Loan to Expand Activities

To expand my activities, I obtained a loan of Cooperativa Pacífico, Peru’s biggest lending and savings cooperative. This will allow me to buy new machinery and to buy land in Huachipa to build a warehouse and a new factory.

I have four children and I love them dearly. They are the world to me, and I would do anything to make them happy. Therefore, it was a tough decision to start my own company. It meant that I would see less of my family since it’s not always easy to combine running a business with being a mother. On the other hand, I do it all for my family. They are my inspiration. I want them to have a stable life and I work hard to give them an education. I hope they all become successful professionals.

Julissa Rojas Flores is CEO of a cardboard box factory and mother of four children. She received a loan of Cooperativa Pacifico, the biggest lending and savings cooperative in Peru, which BIO gave a USD 10 M loan in 2017.