Meet Santiago Mejia and his wife Garbiela who together have launched a social enterprise, Yaku Latin Goods.
They were nominated as one of Brisbane’s Top Emerging Social Entrepreneurs. Yaku Latin Goods has one purpose: to foster healthier communities.
Wanting to give back to the community through supporting social projects, Gabriela and Santiago were triggered by so much social inequality, which they have been aware of for many years. The couple’s first volunteer opportunity was in Peru, where they assisted children with chronic malnutrition. Experiencing this first-hand really saw their ideas come to fruition, whereby making the move to Australia they established Yaku Latin Goods.
Santiago is currently studying our Master of Global Project Management. This course has been greatly beneficial in furthering develop his critical thinking skills, improve business strategies, and involve efficient business strategies into this entrepreneurial venture.
“I have had access to high-quality, relevant mentoring through my success coach, which has made me feel more empowered and self-confident.”
Studying at Torrens University has given me additional exposure to industry networks, which has helped to grow my business further.
My wife and I founded Yaku Latin Goods, a social enterprise that supports health and education projects from a global community perspective. Our business strategy includes importing ethical, high-quality products from Latin America, and retailing these at organic markets and festivals around Brisbane, and online. We currently donate part of our profits to two community projects: one in Peru that assists children with chronic malnutrition, and one in Myanmar that provides shelter and education to young orphans. We call this the Yaku Model. Currently, our main product is dark organic chocolate from our home country, Ecuador. It’s vegan, gluten free and soy free, and has become a proud winner of the International Chocolate Awards for 6 years in a row.
“My wife and I founded Yaku Latin Goods, a social enterprise that supports health and education projects from a global community perspective.”
What advice would you give to students or graduates, looking to pursue their passion?
Don’t think it twice. Undertake that postgraduate study, start that entrepreneurial venture you’ve been wanting to, develop your skills and use your success coach. It’s important to choose a path that allows you to connect your skills with your passion. You will be surrounded by powerful resources, but it’s up to you to make the most out of it and don’t be afraid of taking risks. “It always seems impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela).
What are some key skills you employ in your business?
My management style is very pro-active and determined. Having a positive and driven attitude is key to turning ideas into action. It’s important to set a ‘due date’ to any challenge or strategy you develop. I also believe that you should always be open to organisational change, so long as it adds value to your business. Through continuous training, workshops and active networking, I can stay ahead of my competitors in the market, and keep up to date with industry trends. I consider this to be an essential part of your progress – having a clear goal of the big picture enables you to rethink your strategy.
What do you love most about running your own business?
As a business owner, the best thing about my job is that I’m empowered to challenge myself to define strategies for creating more value and revenue to the business, which in turn, will enable me to provide further support to social projects. In this regard, as an entrepreneurial start-up, my day develops in many fronts at the same time, having to deal with every aspect of the business, from the general manager all the way down to sales, marketing, networking, operations and administrative workload. It’s an exciting yet challenging experience.
What are some achievements you’re most proud of?
I think that two of the best achievements are: starting the business itself and supporting social projects. First, being able to actually turn the idea into action, was definitely a risk worth taking. For that, I guess you have to overcome many obstacles –some real, others created by your own mind- and take a step forward to actually start. I remember, for example, receiving the confirmation email from the Australian Securities & Investments Commission notifying us that our business name, Yaku Latin Goods, had been officially registered. That was definitely a milestone!
Secondly, I consider another great achievement the moment we made our first donation to a project in Peru, ALPANI, that assists children with chronic malnutrition. Having the satisfaction to know that you can actually create a difference in the lives of many families with urgent basic needs, is something to feel proud of, and a source of motivation to keep doing it.
“Know(ing) that you can actually create a difference in the lives of many families with urgent basic needs, is something to feel proud of, and a source of motivation to keep doing it.”
What was the best piece of life advice that you received?
It’s a big question, but I guess two of my best pieces of advice for life, actually come from my parents. My mother, saying ‘always know and value who you are, and put faith and love in whatever you do’, and from my father saying ‘there’s no favourable wind for those who don’t know where they’re going’.