The Colombian entrepreneur Celia Mosquera manages to reshape her life with a business that speaks to her indigenous roots and culture

For the Colombian entrepreneur Celia Mosquera, her natural cosmetics business is much more than a way of making a living: it has allowed her to move on after the forced displacement she and her family had to experience.

Her neighborhood consisted of humble dwellings, built on pilings over the water, where most of the population are displaced migrants. Now she lives in the Tumaco municipality, in a place that is much safer and quieter, in an area popular with tourists and that has more work opportunities, on the Pacific coast of the Nariño plateau, in southern Colombia.

A business with an indigenous tradition

Celia’s mother is an indigenous woman from the Awá ethnicity, a word which means mountain people in the Awapit language. They are an Amerindian people who live in small villages in the jungle. Celia and her mother saw a business opportunity in recovering ancestral recipes and formulas as well as the sobanderos (therapeutic massages with healing properties) a cultural inheritance exclusive to the Afro community, to which Celia’s father belongs.

Empropaz taught me to walk and Bancamía showed me how to leap  

That is how they created Altamisa tradicional, an enterprise making “ancestral cosmetic”. Prepared with medicinal plants and fruits that grow in the region, some the two women cultivate themselves and others bought from women from the hills. They prepare salves, arnica oils and other herbs that relax muscles and ease pains. The most popular products are the 100% organic chocolate and the treatment for skin conditions such as dermatitis and pinta (an infectious tropical disease), prevalent in the area because of the shortage of drinking water. They adapt their shampoos, hair masks, soaps, tonics, and body oils to their customers’ specifications. “These recipes are the result of our culture’s ancient knowledge. Every plant contains wisdom: plants communicate”, explains Celia.

Celia Mosquera, emprendedora colombiana de Bancamía( FMBBVA), elaborando cosméticos naturales

Celia Mosquera, Colombian entrepreneur with Bancamía (BBVAMF), creating natural cosmetics

productos cosméticos naturales

Celia prepares natural cosmetic products using indigenous recipes

She is part of the program Emprendimientos Productivos para la Paz (EMPROPAZ) run by Bancamía, BBVAMF’s Colombian institution. This program gave her the seed loan to buy packaging, labels, and business cards to refresh her brand image. She also used it to buy a dehydrator kiln, an industrial oven, and a natural oils distiller. “Empropaz taught me to walk and Bancamía showed me how to leap”, she explains.

She is sure that she will keep growing as an entrepreneur. She wants to be an example to women who are heads of their households in Tumaco, for them to help her so that she can spend time on the more strategic tasks of her business, now that she is in charge of managing suppliers, preparing products and managing the accounts. She has realized how important digital marketing is, “if you know how to use social media you can do big things”, she says.

She has just graduated in Ethnic Education & Community Development, which gave her the idea for her enterprise. She doesn’t want to forget who she is and where she comes from. That is why she has set up a social project to help her community: Altamisa for Peace, in which she is showing local children the curative properties of plants, so that “to pass on the knowledge to future generations.”

She always reminds herself of her personal mantra and that of her enterprise: “Your goals will take you as high as your dreams”, and she lives by that, day to day, because despite the challenges and difficult moments, her business continues to grow.


Cristina González del Pino. BBVAMF Communications