Mother and daughter, Silvia and Rocio Noya, started AWANAY in 2012 with the aim of creating an enterprise with a social purpose. Today AWANAY works with more than 100 families in the north of Argentina following fair trade principles. Get to know the process, the details of their journey, the biggest challenges and their advice!
What was the motivation for starting AWANAY?
Rocio: In my case, what motivated me to start AWANAY was a search to find a profession which I wanted to dedicate my time and life to. One that had a purpose, that by doing it I felt I was solving a social problem or that contributed to solving something in the world.
I studied Business and I always liked Marketing and Communications but I never knew how to apply my knowledge into something that made me feel good. I started working in multinational corporations and I had a huge career path crisis. I worked 24/7 and I felt my job didn’t represent me. I quit my job without any back-up plan, trying to figure out how to start my own business but I had no idea what exactly or how to carry it out. From this moment, one step at a time, AWANAY was born.
Silvia: My story is quite different! I’m Rocio’s mother. I studied Computer Science and worked with technology and systems my whole life. Although it may seem worlds apart from what’s AWANAY, now I see I’ve been preparing myself for this the whole time. I always liked team-work, surrounded by people with diverse skills and that’s a lot of what I do in AWANAY.
I started with this to support Rocio and her idea, to shape it and carry out the concrete real actions and decisions. I started off to help her and with time the project became mine as well. And it’s ours.
Which were the first steps taken?
R: We didn’t necessarily have a bond with the north of Argentina nor with northern textiles previous to AWANAY. That came up during the search of what kind of social enterprise we could create. We both love design but we didn’t have a relation with textiles. We found out they were disappearing. In the middle of the mountains where they are made they don’t have opportunities to sell. Or simply these are things the grandmas of the family do and the younger generations started to lose interest.
Our first step was to organise a 3-week trip through the mountains. We scheduled meeting with various NGO’s around the area. They introduced us to the most remote areas within the mountains, it’s impossible to get there without anyone guiding you! Here we realised the general conditions in which these communities were living: if they had cellphones, 3G connection, what they did exactly. So, the very very first step was this general overview of the conditions.
Were there times when you thought it difficult to carry out?
S: Yes! There are always tougher moments than others. One simply has to make the right decisions as to find the way to keep moving forward.
R: I once received a graphic that described the days in the life of an entrepreneur and it all in zig zag! One day you’re delighted about your life and having quit your job and the next day you’re full of doubt and fear about everything! This goes on for some time but in retrospective, now we can see it’s a very positive path to have taken. Of course along the journey there are tough moments in which one stands alone against the obstacles.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
R: I would say the most difficult obstacle we had to overcome was to maintain the quality of our completely handmade products as our demand started growing and the sizes of our rugs ordered increased. This is the biggest challenge for any handmade product!
How was it to start a project between mother and daughter?
S: At some point I think it’s quite natural since there’s no bond or trust than the one between mother and daughter. Besides with Rocio we always got along incredibly well and have lots of affinity.
R: We have the trust to speak our mind knowing that nothing will be fundamentally broken.
S: For me it’s like a new opportunity life gave me. I always worked in big corporations working all day so I couldn’t spend lots of time with my children. Now the fact that I can share with them work, I really feel it’s an opportunity for a second chance.
R: Now we’re always together! (laughs)