Maria Jose Salcedo Campos (Mexico), social entrepreneur to be 😉 When leading a Workshop in Berlin recently we realised a constant “mini-crowd of people” centered around one incredible energy burst which turned out to be Maria. Her positivity and smile just caught us. A few days later we write enthusiastic messages back and forth, and we learned: WOAH! There is just so much more than meets the eye. Having worked initially in rural communities in Mexico she now located to Berlin to the International Center for Development and Decent Work. She was also with the BMW Foundation and a freelance writer for a Mexican newspaper. Now, on the verge to travel Asia and other parts of the globe she is also setting up an online market place for Mexican fair trade products. – Interview by ASTRID SCHRADER
The Arc: Mariaaaaa, we fell in love with you at first sight. But for those who haven’t met you: who are you and what are you building?
Maria: I have always volunteered for different causes: Working in rural areas in Mexico, playing with refugee kids in Kassel, organizing fundraising events with Unicef Berlin, you name the cause and I was there to help. I have been living for 3 years now in Germany and since I arrived I noticed the wide variety of BIO and Fair Trade products. Every time I went back home to Mexico I missed fair trade products and could not find them as easily as in Germany. That is when I beganto think of ways to make these products more “reachable” to Mexican consumers. I think this was my “ahá” moment. I started working on an online project I like to call “La Abarrotería” which in Spanish stands for the old typical Mexican market store where producers and consumers interact directly and there are only authentic Mexican sustainable products available. From clothing to shampoos, food and furniture my online store will make all these products available and easy to find for Mexican consumers. My main objective? To raise awareness in the topic of responsible consumption. To start a culture where the Mexicans as the Germans start consuming responsibly and to guarantee decent payment and “fair trade” for the Mexican producers.
Every time I went back home to Mexico I missed fair trade products and could not find them as easily as in Germany. That is when I began to think of ways to make these products more “reachable” to Mexican consumers. I think this was my “ahá” moment.
The Arc: Setting up the first fair trade online market place in Mexico – sounds like an incredibly exciting but also an incredibly hard mission. When doing this – what has been your biggest struggle?
Maria: I have had so many issues around developing my idea but I think I have had three big struggles.
First, I think the biggest one is myself. I always see these successful entrepreneurs and think to myself that I will never be able to reach that point of success. I think I do not really believe I have what it takes to enter the entrepreneurial world, that maybe I am not so courageous or I am too shy. So I hesitate to take action, a lot.
Second, I have also had many issues in the development of my idea. For example in the planning of the shipping process of products. Thinking about it makes me want to close my planning notebook and throw away my idea.
And third, it has been so hard to find a partner. I know I can not do this project alone and I have asked very close friends to get involved and even if they say yes (I assume to keep the friendship) in the end they totally forget about it. So I have felt very lonely in developing the whole idea and that is why I think I have also been reluctant to implement it. Because I do not have a team who checks the plan or the project and says “Hey, let’s do this!”
I always see these successful entrepreneurs and think to myself that I will never be able to reach that point of success.I think I do not really believe I have what it takes to enter the entrepreneurial world, that maybe I am not so courageous or I am too shy. So I hesitate to take action, a lot.
The Arc: Sounds familiar. Gosh. So… we have the privilege of knowing that you have managed nevertheless. What helped you on this journey?
Maria: I think I am very lucky to have EdX in my life and the entrepreneurial courses. Really, no joke. More than my family and friends support, the videos about failure and entrepreneurship resilience from Andy Goldstein have helped me and made me definitely a brave woman. I somehow acknowledge that we all fail every single time every single day. We fail in everything and to everyone so it dawned on me that I can not avoid failure. That as Andy Goldstein says “failure will find you” and “failure is not polite, it barrels into your life”. I think accepting this has been the most important part of my path towards entrepreneurship because it makes me be more “hands on” and more proactive in trying to implement my idea. How have I succeeded? Well my success can not be compared to really successful entrepreneurs but I think the little steps we take forward are tiny success that deserve to be considered. So I would say that despite fearing myself, failure and all the negative conversations I have had with myself, going from the idea to the plan and now being on a stage prior to implementation is a great success.
The Arc: What kind of advice can you give others with a similar challenge?
Maria: To have social impact you really need to be passionate about an issue and be fearless or as in my case, accept that failure will be always by your side and will not want to leave, ever. As I learned in my meditation courses in Thailand, it is crucial to think “this too shall pass”. This too shall pass for both, the good and the bad times. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin and as an entrepreneur. Nothing stays the same way forever so if you are at the lowest point remember there is always a way up and also when you are at the top, remember you can be again at the bottom. So conclusion, accept failure and never stop moving forward.
To have social impact you really need to be passionate about an issue and be fearless or as in my case, accept that failure will be always by your side and will not want to leave, ever. As I learned in my meditation courses in Thailand: “This too shall pass”.
The Arc: Ok, so the one question that we are dying to get answered – Why have you come to The Arc and what did you get out of it?
I found the event “Making Money with your Life Prupose” over the Impact Hub Facebook site. To be honest I had never heard about The Arc before the event but what I learned and gained from the workshop was so valuable that I wanted to keep in touch with The Arc Community because I feel a sense of belonging. During the workshop I met so many people who like me, are in the same situation, doubting their ideas or themselves and The Arc just brings us together and shows us ways to keep on moving forward. I think this was just exactly what I needed because I felt sucked with my project.
To be honest I had never heard about The Arc before the event but what I learned and gained from the workshop was so valuable that I wanted to keep in touch with The Arc Community because I feel a sense of belonging.
The Arc: OMG, hearing this literally breaks my heart. Ok, so last but not least – Who do YOU dare to be and which IMPACT do you wanna stand for?
Maria: I want to stand for decent work, decent wages and responsible consumption in Mexico. In the future I want to see more Mexican consumers buying responsibly because they want to make an impact and not just because they feel a strong need to keep on consuming. I want consumers to realize that what they buy can enhance the life of a local Mexican producer, benefiting both parts in the end. I dare to be a strong Mexican woman social entrepreneur who changes the consuming behavior of her fellow Mexicans.
The Arc: Whohooo! So awesome. Thank you for this amazing intervieeeeeeew!