“We women always want to learn. We are always looking for ways to improve. Thanks to the program I learned a lot about social networks that I had not known before. This has helped me a great deal and even to sell more, especially considering that we were in quarantine last month. The program was also a boost to keep moving forward since we’ve been affected by the pandemic, yet we still have to pay bills,” said Mirtha Huachacona Hinojosa. She owns a small shop, package and toy store in the Laja community.
Mirtha Huachacona along with 85 other entrepreneurs participated in the 2020 Reactivate Your SME program promoted by CMPC and UdeC. It was carried out via talks given by Universidad de Concepción [UdeC] speakers and other institutions in the regional innovation ecosystem. The program lasts for five months and shares skills, methodologies and contents around innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, digital marketing, e-commerce and methods of payment. It also includes business models, legal and financial workshops and pitch creation for presenting a business idea.
“CMPC invited me to participate in the program. It was interesting because they gave us tips on how to offer our services using a pitch, which is something I always did without knowing what it was called. I’ve always tried to take advantage of opportunities,” said Nelly Hita Macaya, a Collipulli entrepreneur and owner of a café that provides food services inside the forestry company plant in this neighborhood of the Region of La Araucanía.
Gisella Valdebenito Cea is the President of the Laja Chamber of Commerce and hardware seller for more than 35 years. She said, “We started out as entrepreneurs, but were not prepared to be business owners. Life is now asking us to learn new things. CMPC has given us many opportunities. For example, they’ve invited us to participate in a business roundtable, which is very important to us because it means we are CMPC suppliers.
“It was a great training program. Everyone was highly motivated despite the fact that the meetings were in the evenings. It was very inspiring. The talks and experiences described by the presenters spoke to each one of us as entrepreneurs. It was a great support and the attendance at the course was outstanding,” said Dora Oróstica, a shopkeeper in the same community and Vice-president of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Reactivating local economies and helping SMEs affected by the coronavirus pandemic was the rationale behind creating the Reactivate Your SME last year by CMPC and the UdeC.
Due to the positive results and motivation of the participants, the second edition of the Reactivate Your SME program will take place this year. Anyone who is interested and resides in the municipalities of Laja, Nacimiento, Mulchén, Los Ángeles or Villa Mininco (Collipulli) can sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org through Wednesday, July 14th.
Restarting the local economy
As part of the institutional collaboration Agreement between the Universidad de Concepción and CMPC Companies, the Reactivate Your SME program was created as an Incuba UdeC initiative. “The coronavirus pandemic also affected trading operations led by small businesses, which gave rise to the idea of supporting them in some way. This is how, together with the UdeC business incubator, we created a program to try to help with this situation. Last year more than 80 entrepreneurs participated. This year due to the positive reception of the program, we are launching the second version because we know that SMEs support families and local economies,” said Felipe Alveal, Assistant Manager of Corporate Affairs at CMPC.
Out of the 86 participants in 2020, 65 were women, a total of 76%. Among the 68 program graduates, 51 were women (75%). “We are very happy with the results of the first instalment of the program that was able to help small businesses overcome the obstacles that arose along the way, especially in the current health emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic measures that have made conducting this type of activity even more complex. We are also quite satisfied with the high participation of women leading businesses,” says Beatriz Millán, Executive Director of IncubaUdeC.
The 2020 program benefited nearly 100 small businesses in the communities of Laja and Nacimiento in the Region of Biobío as well as the Villa Mininco in Collipulliin the Region of La Araucanía. 2021 will also include the communities of Mulchén and Los Ángeles.