Meet María Julia, Food Production Entrepreneur in Peru - CARE

This Entrepreneur is Leading the Path for Businesswomen in Peru

A woman wearing a bright blue collared shirt smiles under a sign that says,

As a child, María Julia Ancajima Prado supported her younger siblings. Now, she has a successful business to call her own.

María Julia has come a long way since starting domestic work at the age of only 13. Growing up, she was the oldest child with five younger siblings. “I had to quit my studies to work and support my siblings,” she explains.

Fast-forward several years and María Julia, now 35, is running a successful business producing honey and preparing carob, similar to chocolate. She holds several positions ranging from President of her own Association to Treasurer and Board member of the National Association of Beekeepers in Lima.

There are fifteen women in her Adonai Association and formalizing the business was one of their biggest challenges. “Once you are formalized, your customers put more trust in you and more doors will open. I have seen the results of the formalization in my own earnings. We have also made progress with registering trademarks and we achieved the food hygiene registration for our products,” she explains.

A woman wearing a white beekeeping outfit holds a comb. Behind her, more beekeepers wearing suits stand around the beehive.

María Julia’s association initially received support from CARE through its Women in Enterprise program, including training in business planning; financial education; self-esteem; setting up a collective brand; marketing; e-commerce and more. María Julia is now receiving support through CARE’s Ignite program, supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

By taking a holistic approach to partnering with local financial and non-financial service providers, the Ignite program opens up much-needed access to finance, technology and networks and builds entrepreneurship capacity and skills. In Peru, CARE is partnering with micro finance institution Financiera Confianza to design and deliver adapted financial products and services, social enterprise Fundacion Capital for capacity and skills building, and fintech Oliver to develop a new virtual training and technical assistance platform. “This is a new opportunity to improve my business, increase my sales and become better known,” adds María Julia.

A key focus for the Ignite program is increasing the digital skills of entrepreneurs. “My goal is to be able to better use digital tools to interact with my customers. I am already using social media, video conferencing and online banking, but I still need to learn more. Many women in my area receive help from their children to use digital tools but it would be very useful to receive professional training to teach us how to use these tools to be able to sell more products to customers from other areas.”

Not even in my dreams did I think I would be a national representative.

María Julia Ancajima Prado

Speaking about access to finance for women entrepreneurs, María Julia explains that in Peru, it can be difficult for a woman to take out a formal bank loan as a result of the husband’s poor credit rating. “I think banks should improve their interest rates on loans, they are often very high,” she adds.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on business. María Julia explains, “The pandemic has hit us economically. Early on our sales completely declined. I was also preparing for Easter and Mother’s Day sales and invested in materials that could not be sold. It is difficult to repay my business loans, but like every good entrepreneur I’m looking for ideas on how to get ahead, including setting up an online store with other associations.”

Looking to the future, María Julia has expansion plans. She says, “I would like to be a successful businesswoman. Not only nationally, but also internationally. I would like to export to other countries.” She confidently adds, “I know that my products are going to go very far.”

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