Lola Apolinario

On a hill of El Agustino, Lola Apolinario and her business partner have set up a social enterprise. They employ women from the area who create beautiful handmade objects; that is how they are now empowered and have improved their lives.

“I was born in a shantytown but I had the chance to have a professional career, unlike my mother”

Being creative and working so hard, it must have been frustrating to create beautiful pieces that only a few bought.

The problem was that we did not know enough about the production process. We had many nice creations that people liked but we did not know how to mass-produce them from one design. That we learned step by step.

You learned that talent is not enough.

Right. It is also necessary to receive training and understand the public and the process.

When did you decide to work with women living in this area of El Agustino?

In the first stage, we had to develop our proposal and the prototypes of our products. A few months later, as soon as we had our first order, we started training them. They are now ready. If we have an order, we call them; they know to paint, cut and retouch.

Before you, they did not generate income.

They could not follow a career. They have two or three children, so they dedicated their time to them while their husbands worked.

How have their lives changed?

Some of them already have a workshop at home, they develop a product line and generate income. One of them provided for her family when her husband lost his job. Another, who had problems with her husband, felt capable of confronting him, as she had now her own income and could raise her two kids on her own. The economic aspect is very important to help them improve.

That must give you a special satisfaction.

Yes, that is why I tell Máximo I would never change what I am doing. This allows me to see how people are changing their lives; no other career can give you that. I feel an incredible satisfaction! It is soul fulfilling.

And the fact that most of your clients are transnational companies shows you that you were not mistaken about the path you chose.

Of course. The fact that we are plastic artists tell us apart from our competitors; we can be more flexible in our proposal.

Some people think that your trade means no economic success.

Some colleagues do not practise the profession or are oriented to other activity for some reason, but I think they can still apply their creativity in any area. You only have to see an opportunity and develop ideas from it… create! That is what artists do.

You have a point in your favour: besides being artists, you have the business gene, since the parents of both of you were street vendors.

We are very similar, Máximo and I. The parents of both of us did not have the chance to follow a career and they had to migrate ⸺Máximo’s parents are from Ayacucho and mine from Huancavelica and Huancayo. He is the last of eight siblings and I was the third of six. Life was difficult for both of us; I think that is what has brought us together and made us feel that we have to support each other to keep going forward and give the same opportunity to other people.

Finding the right business partner is key and, at the same time, very difficult. However, you truly are a team.

We are. I always hear about problems between partners, but in our case, even though there have been complex situations, we have always been mature enough to own our mistakes. When that happens, we say we are sorry and keep going.

Many of your employees go to work with their children. This means you are also teaching them about…

Entrepreneurship! Motivation! They come with their children because they are too little to leave them at home. There is always something that the not so little ones can do. In addition, thanks to the school-workshop we have, children are familiar with creation, with working with hands and have developed graphic-plastic abilities that are very important for them.

And you work with recycled material. It cannot get any better!

Yes. We are interested in promoting environmental education, especially in children. They have to learn how to recycle and separate cardboards, bottle caps, etc. Some children come and say, “Miss, I found this bottle”, and I tell them to leave it to me. That is how they are learning from a very early age to care for their environment.

Why is that important?

Because we only have one planet and we want to take care of it. Just by picking up one bottle cap, we are already fighting pollution.