Yamile Salazar has entrepreneurial spirit and an indomitable drive flowing through her veins. Her sewing business is so much more than an enterprise: it is a lifeline for around 90 people, the majority of them women, who sew in their homes the children’s clothes that Yamile designs and then sells.
As a child, this female entrepreneur had to leave school to help her mother sell hojuelas, a Colombian corn flour flatbread, on the streets of San Carlos, the Antioquia municipality where she was born. Doing her neighbors’ washing and cooking, and providing hairdressing for special events, challenges forced her to mature more quickly than any ten-year old should have to. Her strength in dealing with difficulties is inherited from her mother, who worked as household help to raise her daughter on her own. Her wages were not enough to cover basic needs, though. Yamile remembers how at that time everyone at home ate “from the same plate” because every grain of rice mattered.
Under these circumstances, Yamile started working young and learned that by saving, she could bring her dreams to life. At the age of 15, she moved to Medellín because her village was becoming increasingly violent and her mother feared for her safety. When she turned 18, she began studying at the Social Impact Foundation. At that moment, she decided that sewing was going to be her future. By the time she completed her studies, she knew she was going to create her own brand and have her own clothing workshop.
Nine years ago, after her daughter Ana Lucía was born, she discovered that children’s clothing could be good business and she shifted the course of her professional career. Using offcuts bought from wholesale firms she tailored garments from them.
The orders increased and the time had arrived to upgrade her premises and buy more stock. Since she had no credit history nor income to guarantee a loan, the only bank that supported her was Bancamía. BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s Colombian institution granted her first loan: “That was my gateway to success,” explains Yamile. “I bought two more modern sewing machines and more offcuts so that I could carry on sewing.”
During her customer visits to deliver orders, Yamile began meeting mothers who were heads of hosueholds with jobs that forced them to be away from their children. It was then that she decided to turn her business into a support point so that other women could work towards a better future thanks to sewing. She taught them all to sew and they began to join her workshop.
But Yamile didn’t want to be just a boss to these women. She wanted to provide them with tools so they too, could get ahead without having to leave the care of their children and families to others. So she asked Bancamía for new loans to buy more sewing machines. But this time not for her workshop … rather, so that her employees could work from their homes. Yamile cut the fabric and they finished making the garments in their homes.
Another challenge overcome … and a new dream on the go: making good-quality clothing for low-income people, garments that would sell for around two euros. Yamile started selling her clothes in street markets, taking on more people and creating her own production line with a cutting room, textile printing, distribution warehouse, assembly…
Today, her company “Angels & Princesses” has over 20 workshops that sew for her and is transforming the lives of around 90 people who from their homes to provide for their families. She is only 31 years old and she has already managed to create an entire network for the future for her employees. She has her whole life ahead of her … and many more milestones for “Angels & Princesses.”