One of the most frequent questions that I am asked when I discuss with people about the marketplace, is "why are you doing this?".
Like most projects, it started as a tiny idea that grew little by little over the years. The first time I came to Peru, I saw all those colorful textiles, ceramics and other handmade products similar to which I hadn't seen before and I thought, "wow, it would be cool to trade these products". Maybe I was looking to do something different than working as a computer programmer that has been my usual occupation, or maybe I was looking for a reason to come back to the Andes.
Over time I tried to refine the idea a bit more. As with any startup, it is important to understand what is that you do and why you do what you do, and this understanding is something that may be constantly evolving. The first thing that I realized was that I was not doing this for money really. Being a senior software engineer, I would have a much easier time making my living continuing on a career that I had built for years, rather than making such a radical shift and starting this rather challenging endeavor that could take years to pay back.
It was partly the change and the challenge that was actually a strong motivation. Having changed directions in my career a couple of times in the past, the decision was not too difficult to make, and the idea of going to the high Andes to work with the artisans and the communities, learning new things and acquiring entirely new skills, was something that I found fascinating. But there was another aspect that was equally or more important; the fact that I was looking to do something more meaningful with all the time and energy that I spend every day as a working adult. Something that meant more to me, and something that serves a cause and helps others as well.
And I guess this is a situation that many people find themselves in these days. Working on the corporate world that drains your energy towards implementing somebody else's vision and dream that you do not particularly relate to may not be particularly enticing to many.
I flirted for a while with the idea of setting this up as yet another charity, but I realized that with such a set up it would most likely be difficult to achieve the goals that I was envisioning for this project. The direction that I have therefore taken is that of a "social enterprise", a company that invests the majority of its profit towards the advancement of a social or environmental cause. The structure may evolve as the project grows, but the vision is clearly set: to promote the arts and crafts in the Peruvian Andes while helping the artisans to improve their livelihood by reaching a worldwide audience.