“Change is the only constant in life. One’s ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life.” – Benjamin Franklin
Elena, matriarch and founder of La Esperanza (‘Hope’), is no stranger to the need to adapt. As a young widow raising three children, Elena combined her high school education with sheer grit and determination to launch her first company that quickly grew to employ 300 people. When Ecuador’s 1998 currency crisis caused the Sucre to plunge from 280 to 25,000 to the US Dollar, she was forced to shut down, but continued to hope and plan for the day she could resume operations.
A few years later, Elena relaunched her company, La Esperanza. She began by working with a few ‘manquillas’ (home-based workers). Over the years the company has evolved with diverse production and sales channels. The majority of the production of children’s clothing occurs in her factory, where she employs 160 people (80% of whom are women). Elena’s team also provides work to 45 rural manquillas across the country, each of which employ four to five women, providing livelihood support for 200 women. Beyond commercial activities, La Esperanza also runs a community outreach program in partnership with a state agency. La Esperanza sets aside fabric remnants and makes them available to rural women, along with simple patterns and training so they can make and sell clothes in their communities.
La Esperanza’s diverse sales channels have helped the company adapt to changing conditions. In addition to selling children’s clothing to department stores, La Esperanza sells online and through a few small stores in select locations.
The current COVID-19 crisis has caused Elena to adapt to changing conditions once again. She has had to temporarily shutter her factory due to pandemic restrictions. This has not, however, stopped business from moving forward. She managed to obtain a certificate that allows her to travel, so she goes to the factory and cuts fabric for new orders and then delivers the orders to her staff in order to keep the business running. She has managed to maintain decades-old relationships with department store customers over the phone. And thanks to Elena’s son, Juan Costa, the company has expanded its product line and recently landed a contract to create PPE for Ecuador’s workers on the frontline.
La Esperanza is not immune to COVID-19 related health and economic devastation, but since late May it has been manageable. Only 10 employees have been laid off. Online store activity has increased and the PPE contract brought in $150,000 in new sales.
With AGC’s local financial partner by her side, Elena has been able to expertly navigate continually changing markets, as well as maintain her competitive edge. Factoring has offered her business a constant backbone of stability, enabling La Esperanza to quickly respond to demand, while she does everything she can to support employees and community members to maintain their livelihoods through unprecedented times. Whether personal or professional, local or global, through the forever-flux of economies, currencies, and pandemics, Elena has been able to adapt and thrive. Rooted in a deep desire to support her family, as well as the families of hundreds of surrounding women, Elena continues to push forward, stubbornly refusing to retire and continuing to run a business built on the belief that workers matter, that standards should be high, and that weathering uncertainty stems from relationships that uphold integrity, trust and hope.