Two people sitting on ground, one making utensil (Courtesy of Sofia Cruz del Río Castellanos)
Sofia Cruz del Río Castellanos (right) watches an artisan shape a utensil from volcanic stone. (Courtesy photo)

When Sofia Cruz del Río Castellanos was deciding on a college major, she knew she wanted a path to a career that would give her independence and allow her to help others.

She didn’t want to specialize. She would study business and later start her own company. “Entrepreneurship gave me the opportunity to create whatever I had in mind,” Cruz del Río said.

“[I] could just figure out the path and start creating my project,” she said.

Putting a degree to work

Cruz del Río and woman sitting at table working with beads (Courtesy of Sofia Cruz del Río Castellanos)
Cruz del Río works with an artisan to attach beads to a piece of indigenous art. (Courtesy photo)

Her home country of Mexico has a booming tourist industry, and Cruz del Río noticed that tourists, staying in hotels, had limited interaction with the culture. She started a business that would bring the work of Mexican artisans to international tourists.

Mexikatekatl is a social enterprise that connects the local artisans to larger businesses that buy and sell their goods. As Mexikatekatl provides artisans with a stable income, it preserves Mexico’s unique cultural history.

As her company expands, Cruz del Río hopes to bring the artisans along on the ride. She wants to “create a better environment in Mexico for the artisanal community to grow,” she said.

Cruz del Río’s participation in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative is one way she’s doing that. The pilot program connects her with other Latin American entrepreneurs, opening doors and boosting confidence and business skills.

Spurring on a sisterhood

Cruz del Río standing in shop with shelves and table stocked with artisanal goods (Courtesy of Sofia Cruz del Río Castellanos)
Cruz del Río looks in a shop selling goods made by Mexican artisans. (Courtesy photo)

Social pressures often prevent women from starting companies. But women have “way more opportunities” than they used to, Cruz del Río said.

“If you really want to create something, just don’t step back,” she advises. The more women get involved in business ownership, the more “the whole world will start thinking what a great idea it is to empower women.”