With a little funding, businesswomen can explore creative bent

A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
Viviana Batalla Otárola dips marshmallows in a chocolate

Since she was a girl, Viviana Batalla Otárola has envisioned herself making confections that are both sweet to the tongue and sweet to the eye.

She started paving the way for that reality as a 10-year-old when she began making her own chocolates and selling them at school to her classmates and teachers.

“I always liked to cook,” said Ms. Batalla. “One day I wanted to learn how to make cute-looking food.”

24 years later, armed with a degree in marketing and promotion, Ms. Batalla owns her own business, Kakao, which specializes in designing specialized chocolates.

She was one of about 300 female entrepreneurs who participated in two separate business fairs specifically for women in San José last week.

All of these women had designed their own unique products and started their own businesses with the help of government programs designed specifically to give female entrepreneurs a start.

The Municipalidad de San José and the local Oficina de la Mujer hosted one of these fairs in Parque Central. This was the third annual Mujeres Emprendedoras que quieren salir adelante or “Businesswomen Who Want to Get Ahead.”

Executive secretary of the office of women, Rosa María Vargas, said that this fair was made of all women from the San José canton, most of whom had received help from the Proyecto Autonomia Economica de la Mujer.

She said that the objective is to give both single and married women, especially those with families, financial independence.

A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
Laura Céspedes Araya with one of the pillows she designed
for children.

“Many can support their houses,” said Ms. Vargas. “Many depend on their spouses, but with our program they can help. For us that’s very important.”

Santa Morales Molina is married but has her own business. She learned how to craft wooden jewelry boxes and small cabinets and now makes and sells her own products through her business Muebleria y Artesanías Morales out of her own home.

“With this I work for me,” said Ms. Morales. “I’m my own boss.”

The Feria Nacional de Mujeres Empresaria at the Antigua Aduana hosted by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio and the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres featured considerably more unique products.

The 140 women at this fair sold very specialized products and services like children’s party planning, nurse uniforms, organic chai tea and Ms. Batalla’s chocolates. Their products were just as diverse as their reasons for starting their individual businesses.

Laura Céspedes Araya said that she’s always loved working with textiles, but with her business Ilusiones she specifically focuses on designing toys, blankets and pillows for children. She said that she appreciates that children are always straight forward when they see something they like.

“They are sincere,” she said. “They’re not hypocrites.”

One of the younger business owners was 26-year-old Leonela Rojas, who recently was graduated from the Universidad de Costa Rica with a degree in ceramic design.

She has not always appreciated ceramic as an art or an outstanding project, but just two years ago changed her mind and now has her own business selling ceramic art, pottery, mugs and other items.

“At first I didn’t understand why people studied ceramics,” said Ms. Rojas. “But when I discovered the world of ceramics, it was incredible.”

She said that she only formally started the business this year, and she appreciates how she does not have to answer to anyone and can focus on whatever works she feels like.

“I can make my own designs,” said Ms. Rojas.

All of these business owners agreed that the fairs are especially valuable, because potential customers get to know their products.

“What’s most important about fairs is that the products are introduced to people,” said Ms. Batalla.

“They help me a lot,” agreed Ms. Céspedes, who added that fair organizers helped with making fliers and business cards so clients can contact producers directly.

Both of these fairs as well as a micro-business fair held by the ministry of economy in Limón started and concluded last week, but many of these shops have been featured at other annual fairs and may be featured in futures ones.

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