Positive Deviant: Andrea Lozano
Company: Consumo Cuidado
Company: Consumo Cuidado
Take us through your personal journey to this moment...
I studied psychology as an undergraduate and while figuring out which area I wanted to focus on I knew that I always wanted to do something to help others. I ultimately decided to focus on organizational psychology, which involves supporting enterprises in better serving the human beings that do the work of those enterprises. After graduation, I worked in this field for five years.
During this time I complemented my work life with volunteer activities. For example, I volunteered with Techo, building houses for communities and people in need.
I eventually felt like I wanted to develop more skills and learn new tools that would enable me to have a bigger impact in society. I decided to complete a master’s degree in social entrepreneurship at Hult International Business School in San Francisco. I have now graduated and returned to my home country, Peru.
In my life I have have been quite lucky to have had many opportunities. I feel I have a duty to empower others to look for and find such opportunities as well. This is why I like the impact the social businesses can have in general. You can empower women or men or children or whole communities.
Tell us about your current project...
When I was thinking about what I should do after finishing the master’s program I thought about organic produce in general. I had many different ideas and finally landed on this problem in Peru: access to organic and natural products. In Peru, if you want to eat healthy or if you want to use products that don’t affect your body in general -- like non-GMO, or products free of certain synthetic chemicals -- it is very hard for most of the population to access such products.
My business partner and I thought we should democratize this market. It shouldn’t matter what socioeconomic group you come from, you should have access, to have choice. Right now, some people don’t even have the opportunity to choose.
Our solution was to build Consumo Cuidado. This startup would give people the chance to access such products, particularly organic products. Our strategy is to import products from other countries and offer them at an affordable price, and the other is to develop our own products within Peruvian communities themselves.
At this moment, we have received some initial investment capital and are completing research to identify what are the products we want to develop, in addition to a broader investigation of the market. In particular, we are exploring why such products are so expensive in Peru, both to produce and to import.
Our short-term vision is to import and try out which products are the best for the peruvian market. And from there, our long-term vision is to identify which products are the ones that are going to have more impact. For example, if we think about babies and sunblock or mosquito repellent (products that are specific to something like skin allergies), our task is to devise ways of producing them here so a wider population can have access to them.
Our goal is to ensure that every Peruvian has access to organic and natural products, not only products which you eat, but all kinds of healthy products. Our model is evolving as we learn new things and talk to more customers. But we keep these long-term goals in mind at all times.
What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur?
For me, a social entrepreneur is someone that wants to do good, and not only by being a philanthropist, for example, but by doing good business. Social entrepreneurs are superheros in a way because they notice things about problems which others don’t, and where others haven’t done much to solve them. They want to change those realities. They want to change the way things are getting done. I think we need more of those types of people.
What is the state of social entrepreneurship in your country or community?
In Peru, it is just starting. There are some startups that are being built with social entrepreneurial models, but they are not well known. It is hard to change the mindset of people here because if you talk about a social entrepreneur or a social enterprise, they always think about NGOs. We need to not only build more social enterprises, but also educate people about what that means.
Are there qualities that make a successful social entrepreneur?
We have to be dreamers. But dreamers with our feet on the ground. We have to be analytic about how to achieve impact, from the right investors to the right product. We have to be passionate about the things we want to change. A social entrepreneur also has to have a clear short- and long-term view, while at the same time being flexible enough to change course as needed along the way
How might someone develop such qualities?
That starts in school, high school and then college, because there are people that have those qualities innately but maybe don’t spend time developing them themselves.
Who are some leaders you look up to in the social entrepreneurship space?
Muhammad Yunus is one. I was really intrigued about he did things, although at first I was skeptical. He ultimately convinced me there are many different ways of doing good. And you can start small, a big idea with a small group of people. He inspires me to continue on the path through all the challenges that I face and will face.
Blake Mycoskie of Tom’s is another one. Although his impact model has been criticized, he started off on the right foot. He saw a problem and looked for a solution. I like that he is open to the criticism and open to listening to what people have to say about the company. With that capacity to listen he can improve his solution and find better ways to make an impact.
Other than these two leaders, something that really motivates me and makes me realize that there are a lot of things to do are my former classmates from the master’s program in social entrepreneurship. It was amazing to see so many changemakers in one classroom. I also realized upon returning to Peru that there are people here as well who want to do good through business. Noticing that there are many people with these motivations also motivates me to create a similar path towards the world we all want to see.
The word Innovation is used a lot these days, what does it mean to you in the context of social impact?
Innovation is not only doing things we have done for a while in a new way -- it involves a shift in perspective, from a short-term view, to a long-term one. Particularly in social impact, innovation is something that you can measure for many years for a much bigger impact because it focuses on changing reality -- the reality of a society, a community, a classroom, a family -- all the way from the macro to the micro.
What does Positive Deviance mean to you?
Positive deviance is to see a regular problem, one that probably many people have seen but perceived with a different perspective, and create an uncommon strategy to face and resolve that problem. For me, a social entrepreneur must have a positive deviance point of view.
At Quantica we have a “Learn by doing” approach to education -- can you describe a time where this has served you?
The other co-founder in my startup is an engineer, whereas I have a psychology background. We have very different profiles. Because our business involves understanding many regulatory processes, we had to do a lot of our own research because neither one of us had expertise in that area. We have since talked to a lot of people and immersed ourselves in the space. It is so important to seize that opportunity. There is a technique in the corporate world called “shadowing,” where you follow a person in their day-to-day professional duties to learn how they do things and try them yourself. Learning by doing is one of the richest ways to learn anything.
At Quantica we are driven to unleash an individual’s creativity. How would you describe your creative capacities and your development of them?
I think you are born with some capabilities and you can develop them during your entire life. For example, in my case I have tried to develop my creative ways of thinking by focusing on problem solving during a creative process. I will spend time painting, and while focused on that task a lot of ideas will flow through me, which I write down. After painting, I look at them again and identify which I think are good, crazy and/or useful.
What do you think is needed for widespread adoption of social entrepreneurship as a primary vehicle for social change?
In Peru what is needed is a shift in the perception of social entrepreneurs. When you say that someone is or you are a social entrepreneur people think you are with an NGO and that you need money. Widespread adoption has to start with education on both sides, for social entrepreneurs so they can put their idea into action, and to society so that society can understand the role of the social entrepreneur and that business can be used to solve social problems. We have to educate both sides of the coin, so to speak.
How might interested readers of this blog be able to serve you and your project?
We are at a stage of strategizing how to achieve the social impact we envision. If someone has experience (or knows someone), particularly in the South American market, related to body care products in general and ideas surrounding how we might introduce natural products (e.g. toothpastes, skin care for allergies or babies) to the Peruvian market, we would be happy to talk to them.
Describe social entrepreneurship in one word!
Imagine an aspiring social entrepreneur approaches you for advice -- what do you tell them?
Be patient. Have a flexible, open mind. Nothing will end up as you envisioned it in the beginning. Along the way, things will change, and if you know how to manage that change, things will change for the better. Stay true to your broader vision along this journey because there will be challenges that make it easier to say goodbye to impact in favor of the profit motivation. Also, talk to everybody! Share everything because something you have may help someone else, and something someone else has may help you. Dream high, but with feet on the ground. Be a realistic dreamer.
Andrea can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.