Isabel Toaquiza started her business in 2013, after attending the Empretec workshop the year before in Quito. Her company, Pachigen, makes cosmetic products from organic ingredients grown by small farmers in the northwestern reserves of Pichincha province. These body and facial care lotions and creams are based on ancient wisdom from the pre-Inca Yumba culture, and this is the company’s distinguishing feature: the resources come from natural elements (water, plants, fruits, seeds) from the land where the communities live and based on practices that belong to their cultural heritage.
Another remarkable aspect of Pachigen’s business model is the economic empowerment of women and local communities. In addition to employing mostly women in manufacturing the cosmetics, Isabel and her company are part of a management committee working with 23 local communities, whose goal is to promote local development through land conservation and biodiversity. Empowering women who take care of the crops, valuing the social impact of economic activities and preserving the Yumba identity are core values of Pachigen.
Among the competencies learned during the Empretec workshop, Isabel acknowledges that goal setting and opportunity seeking were, and still are, the two she relied on the most to open her business and to make it grow, almost doubling its sales turnover in just two years. She admits: “The Empretec workshop also helped me to get rid of many cultural paradigms and preconceptions about my role as a woman and a mother which were restraining me.” She adds: “The way I inspire and motivate my team is to show, and make sure, that the success of Pachigen is the success of all of us. I commit myself to fulfilling the dreams of the people who work shoulder to shoulder with me.”
The company currently sells its products directly to spas and in a shopping mall. Isabel is determined to expand production and prepare the products in a laboratory that meets all the required health standards. With a properly set-up production plant, she hopes to brand Pachigen’s organic products and become competitive in national and regional markets.
The cosmetics industry is one of the most profitable in Ecuador. At US$1.1 billion sales per year, the industry is among the five most important economic sectors in Ecuador and the country’s fourth largest importer. The cosmetics industry has registered a sustained growth of about 10% annually. In its first two years of operation (2013 and 2014), Pachigen reported annual sales totalling US$44,000 and US$74,000, respectively.