A group of 16 Venezuelan women in TT have come together to strengthen their small businesses by sharing ideas and supporting each others' ventures.
Venezuelan Business Woman is the name of the social media platform they use to attract Latino and TT customers. The 16 include hair stylists, decorators, kids party entertainment, artists and pastry chefs.
Deilyn Bracho, a decorator and balloon artist from San Fernando, came up with the idea.
"I had contact with some entrepreneurs and from there came the proposal to join forces to highlight the talent of Venezuelan women here in an honest way and generate more work for each of our businesses," she told Business Day.
Yamilethsis Fernández – who bakes cakes in Fyzabad; balloon artists Jennifer Martínez and Beatriz Antequera (Sangre Grande), Joelyn Guzmán (San Fernando), Ivonne Rojas (Penal); stylists Luisa Marín, Jesulexis Vegas, María Indriago and Carolina Urdaneta (San Fernando); manicurists Silvana Gutiérrez, (Curepe), Veronica Fernandez and Ana Corvo (San Fernando); Deirilyn Bastidas – who does kids' party entertainment in Arima; Nathairys Jaimez, a creative stationery artist in San Fernando; and Maholyth Muñoz, who supplies piñatas in Fyzabad, complete the group.
“We started a WhatsApp group and from there more girls joined until we formed a group of 15 that spread throughout various parts of Trinidad,” said Bracho.
They held the first team and strategy meeting at the beginning of March and from that moment they began to expand to different areas.
“Each entrepreneur has her own social network, but we decided to open Venezuelan Business Woman so that those interested in each business can locate the person of their choice there,” said Bracho.
They share customer contacts and organise promotions, sharing ideas, materials and labour.
Most were professionals in their homeland.
“We seek to grow little by little, with talent. Many already did these things in Venezuela and others started here because of the lack of opportunities in honest jobs, language and security,” said Fernández. "In my case, I would like to teach local people, not only to have Trinidadian clients but also for anyone to see the differences, the styles we use and what they like here."
They plan to register their small businesses.
"We want to help this country. We can pay our taxes, create jobs, rent spaces and at the same time promote local talent," said Antequera.
That is the case of Indriago and Urdaneta, who opened beauty salons.
"It's a way to generate more clients, workers, and we also pay for services by giving back a little to this country that has opened its doors to us," said Indriago, who owns Ávila Magics Studio.
They are all mothers, and for some going out to work was not a good option, so they work from home.
They buy and share materials to help keep costs down and offer affordable prices.
“Many of us buy our materials between San Fernando and Port of Spain, but we have to walk and go to various stores looking for a variety of prices, styles and colours. That is why the support that each one provides is essential, such as information on places, stores and options,” Rojas said.
Another alternative is shopping online.
“Some of us have shared the websites where we buy our raw materials, some through Amazon and others even through the mercadolibre.com page from Venezuela,” said Bracho.
Experience and certification is also essential to what they do.
Marín said because she has official certificates as a hair stylist, she has been able to establish contact with the suppliers of brands such as Tec Italy, GoCare and Rush.
One additional expense they have is transport. Bracho said most of the entrepreneurs do not have their own car. Being Venezuelan and not being able to apply for a driver's licence or car loans, they have to pay a lot for taxis.
“In my case I use TT RideShare for security. I spend more money, but it is faster, more comfortable and safer to get around,” she said.
Some still do not have bank accounts.
“We all depend on cash. Only some of them can use the bank accounts of their husbands, who, through their jobs in companies, have been able to obtain an account, But it is a risk for us to handle cash,” said Urdaneta.
“We have many adversities. It is not easy to look for clients, to look for the cheapest stores to buy raw materials, pay for taxis, place orders and then handle cash, which is insecure.
"But we are women who are happy to be proactive. In addition to working in what we like, we provide happiness to our clients and we still have the necessary time to take care of our homes,” said Martínez.
“The idea is to continue expanding the team. We want to include seamstresses, cooks, jewellery creators, among others, who want to expand their ideas and businesses throughout TT,” said Bracho.