6 minutes

Entrepreneurship or how to be the master of your own fate 

In the north of Bogotá, beyond the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city streets, there’s a dream come true called Encanto, the Spanish word for charming. Encanto is also the name of the rural Colombian community where a family with magical powers lives – and the Disney film that tells this story won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film in 2022. The real Encanto is a place where, far from the fairy tales of the cinema, Luisa Agudelo’s dream comes true. 

photo of a street with colorful buildings and green mountains in the back, in bogotá, colombia
Encanto, Bogotá, Colombia

Luísa was born in Ibagué, the music capital of Colombia, in the Department of Tolima, into a family which, although not well-off, was steeped in values that instilled in them the importance of hard work and honesty from an early age. When she was eight, Luísa discovered a world that changed her life: her dad’s handicrafts shop. It was there that she discovered her love of serving the community and her talent for connecting with people. 

“Since I was a child, I’ve wanted to have a store, my own business”, says Luisa with a smile on her face as she recalls her early years. When she was 12 years old, Luísa and her family had to move to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, but her enterprising spirit was undiminished.  

 photo of a woman smiling in front of a supermarket store
Luisa Agudelo. Ara Encanto, Bogotá.

Despite the difficulties, Luísa set out to find her place in the world of retail, to which she felt drawn, and she got a job on the staff of Tiendas Ara as Store Supervisor in 2018. With time and thanks to her talent, she rose through the company ranks to Store Manager, a role where her dedication and entrepreneurship spirit shone out, as they had in her previous jobs. In all this time, she never let go of her dream of having her own business, and in her own mind this was the reason why she worked with such utter determination, confident that hard work is the best investment for a good harvest.  

“Since I was a child, I’ve wanted to have a store, my own business.” 

The first time that Tiendas Ara invited her to become a franchisee, Luisa turned them down. Shortly afterwards, she remembered the last day when she could apply for the opportunity of a franchise from that company that had believed in her talent and had allowed her to train to be an owner, and so she decided to apply.  

“It wasn’t easy,” Luisa admits. She tells us of how she faced a series of entrepreneurship challenges and obstacles: starting with an assessment with other colleagues who shared the same dream, to negotiating the complicated red tape for registering the shop, coping all the time with the uncertainties and challenges faced by any new business owner. Each step of the way required tenacity and determination.  

After taking part in the procedure, Luisa tells us that she was given the address of what would potentially be her store: “I came with my family to look at the place. I’ve always relied on their support and I always ask their opinion”. Once she saw the location for herself, she had no hesitation in calling the franchise team to tell them that she accepted the location for her store and that the name for her new business would have to be Ara Encanto, or in English, Ara Charm.  

Over the months that followed, the support from her managers and from Tiendas Ara was fundamental in helping her design a commercial and marketing strategy for the store and so attract the right clientele. She also benefited from constant support in selecting her staff and managing the team, which proved crucial to the store’s business success. Thanks to all this, Luisa was able to turn her vision into a prosperous and successful venture, meaning she has not only set up her own business, but is also an employer and able to back other people’s dreams. 

“The most important thing is to love what you do.” 

On 27 June 2022, Encanto opened its doors with a workforce of nine. “It was the fulfilment of a dream I’ve cherished since childhood. It’s called Encanto because of the joy this gift has given me, and I hope all my neighbours can feel it too and like my store,” she tells us. There are now 11 people working to make the store a byword for quality and affordable prices, meeting the needs of the entire neighbourhood. “For me, it’s very important to help people; it’s very rewarding to create jobs, to be able to help families and be involved in improving their lives”, Luisa stresses.  

For Luisa, being the first woman franchisee of Tiendas Ara is not just an honour, but also a responsibility she has accepted with pride. She sees her position as an opportunity to inspire other women to follow their dreams and break down barriers, paving the way to diversity and equality in the business world. 

Luisa Agudelo’s story goes beyond the pages of a magazine and offers real inspiration for people who long to make their entrepreneurship dreams come true. She is living proof that the spirit of enterprise, dedication and love for our communities can bring people together and change their lives. 

In less than a year, Luisa’s store has nearly doubled in size, enabling her to stock more products so that her customers and neighbours in the local community can find everything they need for their homes, without having to look further afield.  

“The most important thing is to love what you do”, she reflects wisely. Through her story, Luisa Agudelo has shown that, more than ever before: “Ara means colour, diversity and optimism, Ara means Colombia!” 

photo of a woman working on a supermarket checkout, smiling

Former Ara employees are betting on entrepreneurship 

Colombia is the fourth largest economy in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. With more than 50 million inhabitants (Bogotá, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartagena are all cities with a population of more than one million), it has the third largest population in Latin America. 

One thing the people of Colombia have to offer is a culture of business enterprise. There are 5.7 million registered businesses in the country, up by 13% from 2020, reflecting a broad entrepreneurship spirit. 

The combination of the county’s own business culture and the Group’s interest in bringing economic, social and environmental development to Colombia has brought life to an initiative that sets out to invest in the entrepreneurship dreams of the Colombian people. The plan is for Ara to grow from the 15 franchises in 2023 and expand this business model in the coming years. The innovative franchising model that Ara has developed, was designed to transform people’s lives by making their dreams come true.