My name is Olenka Marquina, I am a Peruvian entrepreneur, mother and architect by profession. I am in charge of two businesses: a coffee shop and an architecture firm. We give direct employment to more than 50 people in both companies.
Every day I work day and night to keep my businesses going. I have always been known for being persistent and hard-working, but above all empathetic, and COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge for me.
When the pandemic started, the simplest option would have been to close the businesses, wait for time to pass and see what happened, and then see how we could get back on our feet. The problem we had, well we don't call it a problem, but the reality, was that 50 families depended on us for their livelihoods.
So the plan was to keep the whole team working. In the case of the coffee shop, we had to reinvent ourselves and start giving new tasks to waiters, cooks and baristas. Some became packers or were involved in production issues, while others were checking labels or assembling packages for home delivery.
In the case of the architecture firm, it was a bit more complicated because we had people on site such as electricians, drywallers or painters who could not carry out any work at that time. So we decided to put them in delivery uniforms and they all went out to make deliveries.
During the pandemic, the issue of occupational safety and health was crucial. Not only because we had already complied with a COVID plan that had some protocols, but also because it was very important to keep all our staff healthy and to maintain our activities.
One thing we talked a lot about with the workers was that all the precautions that were taken in the workplace, whether it was in the coffee shop or on the construction sites, the same protocols and precautions had to be maintained when they were on their way home so that they always stayed safe.
With my family the quarantine has not been easy because of the additional care and attention to the children, but I am grateful that with my husband we have worked as a team and we have been able to get all the domestic chores done, each one of us taking turns, since I also work.
In Peru, it is widely believed that the man is the only one who should work and the woman should dedicate herself to the children, but in this case, women also work and also move forward and we need the help of our partners to be able to prosper and move forward with all the plans we have together.
Being a woman and an entrepreneur is not easy for many and there are always obstacles along the way due to gender discrimination. In my case, there are still some remnants of the idea that the architect is the one who sits down to draw and the engineer is the one who goes to the building site. But in reality times have changed now and we are the ones who go out and do everything.
Also, there is now strong and growing evidence that the presence of women in management positions works for business. Unfortunately, however, this has not yet translated into reality.
From my personal perspective I see the future of work with optimism. Despite the resurgence of the pandemic earlier this year, we have not been discouraged. We know that we will have to be resilient during these months as some activities have been paralysed by the containment measures.
My expectation for 2022 is that our coffee shop will be overflowing with customers and we will probably open two more locations.
In the case of the architecture firm, we hope to open a coworking space in April and to continue to grow, as people continue to think about their homes, and keep changing, keep renovating, and keep improving the spaces where they now spend more time than before.
In conclusion, I believe that women who want to grow in this world will always do so. Dreams never end and it’s only those who stop dreaming who do not achieve their dreams.