Weaving a country, is an initiative of social entrepreneurship that is changing the footwear market through innovation. They manufacture boots and shoes in sheep’s wool using an ancestral technique and they also use recycled tires to make the soles.
They are made by disabled women, older adults and mothers head of family.
Weaving a country, emerged as a solution to a personal need and has become a family and social business with a great future. They participated in the RECON contest and were selected among the 60 best social enterprises in Colombia. Creator, Linda Castro is our social entrepreneur of the week and told us about her project.
RECON: Who is Linda Castro?
Linda Castro: I am a social entrepreneur, student of gastronomy at the Uniagustiniana University of Bogotá, I am studying 6th semester and I am currently doing an entrepreneurship course offered by the university.
REC: How did your Weaving a Country initiative come about?
LC: Because of several factors. In the first place, it was born of an economic problem, I did not have the resources to buy shoes for my daughter, so I decided to look for an alternative and I made some shoes with wool.
It is born of despair. One believes that problems do not bring anything good, but in my case the opposite happened. I found a solution to this problem and created a project that became a company: Weaving a country.
It is also born of inequality; disabled people do not have employment because they consider that because they have a limitation they are not useful or productive. I suffer from loss of memory and weaving gave me a therapy that heals me, that is why I was motivated to offer work and accept people who have some kind of disability, the only condition is that they can use their hands to weave.
REC: Why is weaving a country a social enterprise?
LC: Because, first of all, to manufacture our shoes we use recycled tires for the manufacture of soles, thus helping the environment, in the reuse of a waste that contaminates.
“A single truck tire needs half a barrel of crude oil, and its processing and subsequent disappearance always generates CO2 emissions (carbon oxide) into the atmosphere.”
Second, because we provide job opportunities to people in vulnerable conditions and contribute to the inclusion process, which is so necessary for our society. The requirement to work with us is to have a disability, be a woman head of the family or be an adult.
REC: When did you start seeing your venture like a business opportunity?
LC: When the girl, my daughter started wearing shoes, many people liked the design and they told me why not make shoes for their daughters, I discovered that it is a profitable business, the raw material is not expensive, what is more expensive is the workforce.
REC: How much does a pair of shoes cost?
For children, between $80,000 and $100,000 depending on size and for adults the cost is $250,000.
REC: How do you describe the shoes you make and why are they different from the others?
LC: They are waterproof shoes, made 100% by hand. We use Peruvian sheep wool, we use an ancient technique for the fabric and the sole is recycled tire.
It is important to say that they are waterproof because people believe wool allows water in, so we do an internal process of waterproofing so that this does not happen and are shoes fit for winter. The wool is a resistant and durable material.
REC: How many people currently work on making the shoes?
LC: Currently we have 8 women and my husband, all have the characteristics mentioned above, some with hearing disability, spinal problems, memory loss, single mothers and older adults.
We want to show the world that one can overcome that, despite being told that we could not work and that we were not useful, I can prove otherwise.
REC: What is Guio and what is the relationship with Weaving a country?
LC: Weaving a country is the initiative that emerged to group women with the mentioned characteristics and Guio is the commercial name to sell the shoes, it is the brand.
REC: What expectations do you have for Guio?
LC: We want to become a multinational, the first global company that produces winter boots from wool and tire soles, with disabled workers, people who for the rest of the world are not useful and to whom, we do give value.
REC: Currently what production capacity do you have?
LC: 100 pairs of boots a month. So the process is manual, we need an investor to buy machinery that allows us to streamline part of the process.
REC: We have learned that you are looking for an investor. With how much capital do you want to work, approximately?
LC: 60 million Colombian pesos, COP equivalent to (20,000 USD) for machinery and raw material, with this we would increase production to 300 pairs per month.
REC: How long is the return on investment projected?
LC: According to our business plan, we calculate that six months would be recovering that capital so that the investor who believes in us recovers the investment.
In the same way we want the investor to also be linked to support the distribution process and achieve growth in the market.
REC: How are you making the sales? Through what distribution channels?
LC: As we had no trademark and patent registration we were doing it with people nearby and door to door, we could not be in stores. At this moment we are processing the reference to obtain the registration and we hope to obtain it in a short time.
There is a chain of shoe stores nationwide that are interested in selling shoes in their stores.
REC: How is that patent and trademark registration process going?
LC: Artesanías de Colombia did a closed-door study of our product and we obtained certification as an artisan product; with that certificate, they gave us a 95% discount for patent registration and trademark registration, which helped us immensely, it is in process. We hope it does not take long.
REC: How is the income for the people who work in Weaving a country?
LC: Currently, the ladies who collaborate with us earn half the shoe they make, the goal is to formally establish ourselves to provide a salary with benefits of law, that have a job worthy of optimal conditions. For that it is necessary to have an investor, the issue of trademark and patent registration, little by little we are achieving it.
REC: You were selected among the best 60 initiatives of social entrepreneurship in the country in the RECON contest. How has this served you?
LC: To let people know us; thanks to that participation, we managed to make Artesanías de Colombia review the product and certify it, which later helped to obtain the discount in the process of registration of trademark and patent. In the same way, as a result of RECON in the University, we were able to get an entrepreneurship course to support us with knowledge.
Soon we will participate in an entrepreneurship university fair with a stand to exhibit the product; there we compete for the chance to go to Canada on behalf of the Uniagustiniana, we have faith that this award will be for Weaving a country.
REC: A tip for social entrepreneurs?
LC: That if you want it, it is possible, you have to show the world the capabilities that you have even if they say you cannot do it.
The video with which they participated in the RECON contest tells more about the initiative and product