Mulata Confecciones stitches global business together

Sep 05, 2019 by Kelly Barnett

When Pavco-Wavin needed a new supplier for uniforms, they were surprised to find the solution was on the doorstep

Ofelia Hurtado Muñoz, from Santander de Quilichao was part of a small group of women who decided to use their dressmaking skills to form The Mulata Confecciones group, a company making uniforms and workwear for businesses and schools. Less than a decade later, they are one of Pavco-Wavin’s most valued suppliers.

Historically, the Cauca region has struggled to maintain quality jobs and livelihoods for its people. Most work is low paid and seasonal, meaning it is difficult for families to thrive. I days gone by, the most important crop was sugarcane. In recent years, the market for sugar has fallen significantly. So, when a company like Pavco-Wavin sets up production in struggling areas, its impact ripples far beyond just its own employees.

For hundreds of years, mothers in the small towns and villages around Gauchené in the Cauca region of Colombia have passed down the skill of needlework to their daughters. So, it was no surprise that many of them used that skill to bring in a little more money. What was a surprise was when a few of those women decided they should try a more formal arrangement to enable them to work together to compete for work from bigger businesses.

Ofelia explained how the group began with training. From their work on a guava farm, they came into contact with Pavco-Wavin. She said

“We knew how to make clothing, that skill has been handed down through the generations.  Each of us made clothes for other people, from school uniforms to formal wear but we did not know about supplying in volumes. We did not know about managing a business. We needed training to learn how to run a real business instead of just sewing. Pavco-Wavin provided that training. We learned basic accounts and bookkeeping as well as supply and demand, managing stocks and invoicing.”

One of the main difficulties the women faced was the invoice period. It is standard for large businesses to insist on payment periods of 30, 60 or even 90 days. For a company, that is not a problem but for a small supplier, who has to invest in stock and pay overheads, it can be the difference between success or failure.

Mutual respect brings opportunities for female entrepreneurs Mutual respect brings opportunities for female entrepreneurs

Mutual respect brings opportunities for female entrepreneurs

Patience and commitment reap rewards and empower local women

The women of The Mulata Confecciones group were prepared to work hard, knowing that the benefits in the long run would be worth it. They recognized the opportunities that were on offer, and they decided to grasp those opportunities and try to be successful. Ofelia said

“Our personal and family life changed a lot because we are already more empowered women in the sense that we have the opportunity to generate income, send our children to school, many of us also had the opportunity to improve or make our homes. It also changes your lifestyle because we already have new income, because we already know that the negotiation will improve us together, and tomorrow I will be able to buy something that could not be done before because the family budget was very small, and our children do not have to be thinking about how are they (mothers) going to give us studies, where is my mother going to get (money) to pay for services and things like that. That is a very significant change because that chain of very urgent needs can be ended, so that is an emotional and economic well-being and it also changes our way of thinking.”

What’s next for these entrepreneurial women?

The ladies of the group are very grateful to Pavco-Wavin for the opportunities, advice and support that they have received, for the space provided for their work, and for the continuing business they receive. The group has had the opportunity to know the Bogotá plant, the Cali plant, to get to know the work team.

Ofelia summed up their future very well, saying

“We have a very atypical way of working, compared to other garment companies, because since the beginning of the company, we work each one from our homes and we look for other people to help us in production because the idea is to generate more employment. We employ, for example, the companies where we buy the supplies. Blessings and work must be shared.