Can food be both delicious and nutritious? Can business be both profitable and purposeful? Can a company improve nutrition for consumers while improving the lives of smallholder farmers? Yes!
Marta Del Rio’s journey to social entrepreneurship began with her mother. Her mother was a volunteer with the Red Cross. She taught Marta that for those whom much is given, much is required.
Marta spent much of her career as a busy executive with global brands you would recognize: L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Burger King, Mars and American Express. These jobs required long hours and sacrifices. Still, Marta found ways to give back through pro bono work. She wondered, would there be a way for her to combine her purpose, passion, and skills to make an impact.
Marta and her co-founder, Gianina Gandullia spent almost two years working out a market segmentation and supply chain strategy. She started with her desire to make an impact. She chose food, which was her passion. She focused on Peru, her native home. She knew that Peru was the home of some of the world’s superfoods such as maca, cacao, quinoa and purple corn. She selected the needs of farmer associations as her target population for impact. By combining these elements together, Marta co-founded Wasi Organics.
Wasi Organics is a Peruvian producer of organic, healthy snacks. They reduce the poverty gap by sourcing products directly from small Andean farmers’ associations and paying fair pricing.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Marta Del Rio, Wasi Organics
“I had no idea that social entrepreneurship was what I was doing.”
“I started to question what kind of impact I was having as a person.”
“When I went back to Peru I thought there must be a way to make a bigger impact.”
“I knew there had to be a way to build a business that could turn a profit and make a positive impact.”
“What I had been doing in the corporate world was building companies, to make them last.”
“What is needed for a social company that lasts? Purpose? Yes. Passion? Absolutely. And then skills.”
“There are a lot of social entrepreneurs with a wonderful idea, but they come up short on skills and experience some times.”
“I think sustainability for a company is about the impact you make in the world.”
“I thought, how do I make an impact in the food sector – anywhere in the world, but in particularly in Peru?”
“It was a lot of field work, and then literally taking a plane, a train, a truck, a mule…”
“What you cannot do as a small startup is to try to aim for everything.”
“We only work with Peruvian superfoods because that makes us different and our products different from everyone else.”
“That’s how we started. Where are the people who are farming these crops with so much value, potentially? And yet, that value has not been realized.”
“Two years of that was tiring, because you don’t see the products. You’re planting the seeds.”
“We thought at the beginning that it was about telling them ‘We’re going to change your lives,’ but they have heard that a few times.”
“They’ve heard that speech many times. I did not know that. That was one of the initial surprises.”
“What I thought at the beginning would take a few months, took a few years.”
“We don’t work with associations who are looking for charity. We work with associations where the leading families want to regain their dignity.”
“I have basically seven superfoods I work with.”
“I love to cook, so I called a few chefs that I know and asked ‘How can we do something interesting with this?’”
“We thought, let’s start with small markets and see how it scales.”
“We wanted intelligent, patient capital and that is what we found with Acumen.”
“It’s all about word of mouth and building credibility within the association.”
“We move from working with one association to two and from two to three. Basically, we replicate the model.”
“Follow your dreams. It’s never too late. It took me twenty years.”
“Yes, it is much, much, much more difficult to run a profitable social enterprise. But it is much, much, much more satisfying.”
“Before you buy a product or a service, think what’s behind it.”
“One of the best ways to collaborate is to support companies that are making a difference in our world.”