Your Name: Gabriela Flores

Business Name: Kirah Design, a producer of accessories and decorative pieces made by bolivian artisans

Type of Business: Design/Home & Housewares/Social Enterprise

Business Location: La Paz, Bolivia

Twitter @kirahdesign
Facebook Design Bolivia

Reason for starting
When I decided to become a social entrepreneur, I had 2 things in mind: how to give real job opportunities to talented artisans in Bolivia and how to create beautiful home accessories using only recycled or discarded materials and combining it with the amazing talent of Bolivian artisans. We work with artisans from rural areas, indigenous communities and urban areas. Our pieces are designed by designers in New York and our contemporary designs rescue always the cultural identities of each community as well as the ancestral techniques that we use to elaborate each piece. Our approach is from the market backwards and we are always focusing on a business model rather than a paternalistic one. Our goal is to transform waste into a piece of art.

How do you define success?
We have created a new business model. We are changing the traditional concept of doing handcrafts. After many years of understanding the market and identifying the bottlenecks in the whole production process we can say now that our model is working. We are part of the whole process, from the design, access to raw materials, training to the artisans, empowering social entrepreneurs in each community, marketing and commercialization of the pieces. Another key element is that our customers can track back what we say. We are changing mentalities and creating a methodology to alleviate poverty instead of selling it. Our business approach and our interest that this has to be a business for everybody is a key element for us.

Biggest Success
I am one of the 6 laureates for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award 2012. I am the winner for the Latin America region.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Our top challenge right now is to export our first container in May, 2013. We are ready for market growth and we have worked hard to get to this moment. We just signed an alliance with a company in the US to be able to use their warehouse and distribute in the US. If we fulfill our plan to ship our first container to the US it will be historic for Bolivia’s handmade industry. We are in the middle of a fundraising round in order to get funding to improve the workshops of our artisans and scale up. During the first quarter of the year usually the artisans don’t have much to do and have to dedicate to other activities. Our goal is to start producing the first days of January and create a real economic impact in more than 500 artisans and his/her families.

Who is your most important role model?
Anita Roddik when she first started her business. Social entrepreneurs that do what it takes to make their dreams come true.