Lucy Carrasquillo is committed to a solidarity economy. She believes that every businesswoman has what she need inside her to get ahead and not only keep her dreams alive, but help the dreams of other small entrepreneurs flourish.
The inspiring Puerto Rican businesswoman is in charge of Centro Gomas Savarona, a family automotive business that she and her siblings have managed to transform and keep afloat through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the current global pandemic.
After earning a master’s degree in management, Lucy joined her husband at ConsultCom, a company dedicated to helping those considering starting a business through training and personalized attention. But in addition to being an indispensable part of the survival of both companies in times of crisis, Lucy supports efforts to rebuild her country by investing money in local companies. How? By creating and supporting responsible projects and entrepreneurs interested in a better and fairer world.
Her philosophy exemplifies the values of the Solidarity Economy, which aims to inspire a social transformation to give rise to fairer, more supportive, planet-conscious societies interested in making the global and individual changes necessary to prosper. Organizations participating in this movement are committed to creating opportunities, encouraging education and development, changing their consumer habits and finding ways to adjust politics and the economy to the needs of the majority.
Solidarity Economy: Supporting the Dreams of Others
ALINE CERDÁN – Can you tell us a bit about ConsultCom and Centro Gomas Savarona and how they came about?
LUCY CARRASQUILLO – In my career, I started to manage the businesses almost without realizing it. In the case of Centro Gomas Savarona, when my oldest daughter started school, I had time and needed to earn some extra money. So in 1997, I approached my dad’s business and started in the administrative part since I had a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in secretarial sciences. There, I started as the owner’s daughter with managerial functions. Little by little, together with my brothers, we began updating and innovating in my dad’s business, which started in 1985. When my dad died in 2014, I started to have shares in the business. In other words, the second generation managed to keep a successful business. Here I started out of need, but as time went by I realized that I was a businesswoman. I was in charge of compliance management, marketing, human resources…
ConsultCom is a business that my husband started and which I later joined after completing my master’s degree in management. I love it because we are dedicated to providing training and business support for people who want to start a business. With that in mind, we created a local model with a methodology to provide people with the basic tools and guide them through the initial process of starting a business. I am fascinated by what we do because it is not only providing business training, we include accompaniment and we go further with our entrepreneurs. In many cases we know their stories and their setbacks, we listen to them, we encourage them to identify that in themselves the strengthsthey need to achieve their business dreams.
In our model the key is to be there for the entrepreneurs and the fact that we promote another way of doing business,from a different logic: the Solidarity Economy. That is why we create alliances, support local businesses, care for the planet, treat and pay workers fairly. Success is also achieved by companies that help others. Problems like global warming, labor injustices and inequality move us to create another way of handling the economy.
How to Keep Dreams Alive In Times of Crisis
A.C.– How has your business had to transform to keep your dreams alive in times of crisis? What adaptations were necessary after the pandemic?
L.C. – In the case of the automotive business, we shut down for two months. We got a loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which helped us keep our workers and established a cleaning and disinfection protocol. We all wear masks for protection and respect physical distance. Here I am very concerned about the safety of our workers and clients. I am always on the lookout for complying with protocols for everyone’s health. “If I take care of myself, I take care of others.”
On the other hand, at ConsultCom, it has been a challenge since we work in group training and our design includes a lot of contact. We do group work and individual business advisory meetings. But in the face of the pandemic, we moved our training to a virtual platform and, to our surprise, we managed to retain 75% of the participants. Some were unable to continue with the training due to problems with the internet, lack of equipment or personal situations such as caring for their children and older relatives.
Training and support have been a challenge since it is not the same as when it is in person. But given the circumstances, we have managed to maintain a relationship with the majority and, even in this circumstance, seven businesses were established, ten are in the permit process and another eight are prototyping.
A.C. – What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as the owner of your own business post-hurricane Maria?
L.C. – In 2017, when our island was hit by Hurricane Maria, the situation was very depressing. For months we had nowater and no electricity, it was quite a challenge. With the automotive company, we had a cistern and a generator and we were able to continue providing services.
In our consulting company, all services stopped. The energy was poured into surviving and supporting our community’s basic needs. There were calls, meetings and community activities, and solidarity emerged to support each other. Solidarity was what helped us all get back on track. Emotional support was very necessary to help lift us up as a country. At ConsultCom it took us 5 months to restart our work.
The challenge was maintaining a positive attitude and keeping the faith that this difficult time was going to end and we had to move on. I had to be strong and encourage others. When you focus on helping others, it helps you focus on working for a better future.
Another great female entrepreneur who empowers women
Resilience: The Fundamental Ingredient In Times Of Crisis
A.C – What do you think is the most important thing you have learned about how to keep your business dreams alive in times of crisis?
L.C. – After having experienced Hurricane Maria in 2017, the earthquake in the south of our island in January 2020 and the pandemic in March, times certainly require us to be resilient. We have to be in constant change mode. In times of crisis the attitude must be positive and flexible. Always looking for ways to innovate. If it doesn’t work one way, we move on to the next. Always paying attention to what the client needs and working with them. This pandemic is also giving birth to a new, more demanding and digital consumer.
A.C – What recommendations would you make to other small business owners fighting for their dreams and businesses right now?
L.C. – These difficult times require us to identify that vital force that moves us. Every businesswoman has what they need inside to get ahead. That strength, persistence, and shrewdness. Every businesswoman has potentials that she must awaken and start using. In our training, we talk about business self-esteem because the engine of a business is the person. If the entrepreneur becomes aware and identifies her abilities and what she needs to grow, she will look for how to develop those. She will experience an inner liberation and conceive herself as capable. And that awareness will help her achieve her business goals.
The majority of the people in our training groups are always women. For example, in the last training group we completed in June 2020, 56% were women. This data indicates that women, in their quest to complete their entrepreneurial dreams, take action to prepare themselves and become an entrepreneur. They take time to go throughthat process. We have several success stories from business owners such as boutiques, the first co-working in Caguas, pastry shops, catering, beauty salons, event coordinators, transportation and others. We are also currently working with a restaurant, life coach, pet groomer and others.
Women have management skills (at home) and those same skills are put in place to manage businesses wisely. We know how to take care of physical resources and to manage funds.
Buying Locally Is Part of The Solidarity Economy
A.C – How does your business impact the local economy?
L.C. – In the automotive business we have 10 workers and therefore we are the livelihood for their families. Purchases are made from distributors in Puerto Rico. Our business has been providing services for more than 30 years and I have been managing it for 23 years.
At ConsultCom, by promoting the creation of charitable businesses we also create awareness of supporting local businesses. (A principle of the solidarity economy.) When we asked the most recent group we completed in June 2020 if the program helped them broaden their awareness of the importance of consuming locally, 100% said yes. In these moments of crisis, one of the ways to contribute to the economy is to buy from Puerto Rican businesses, since that way the money stays in our country.
A.C – What is the best way to support small entrepreneurs and businesses in our communities?
L.C. – Promoting another way of doing business taking into consideration the solidarity economy and empowering our people so that they have the ability to create their own businesses. In Puerto Rico, according to economist Manuel Lobato, for every 1,000 inhabitants, 12 businesses are created. That statistic is very low. We at ConsultCom contribute to raising awareness and provide training to change that reality. We can all be businessmen and businesswomen. Those who decide to get their hands on the process and achieve that business goal will make it happen.
It is a matter of will and seeking support in order to bring the business to fuition. The best way is with business training aimed not only at the technical aspects of how to establish a business, but also including the emotional aspect that can accompany you through the process.
A.C – Where do you find the strength and inspiration to keep going when everything looks so difficult?
L.C. – When things around me are difficult and even depressing, such as after the hurricane, I take even more refuge within myself to regain new strength to deal with whatever comes. I am a person with values and convictions, and I have a purpose in life to help others discover their inner potential. So, I must be connected with myself, with my inner strength and my light. And that light comes from God.
You can contact Lucy Carrasquillo at firstname.lastname@example.org