On January 7, 2006, Valodia Flores (’09, Nicaragua) got on a bus and waved through the window to her mother, who was crying with joy and pride. Valodia was embarking on the journey from Nicaragua to EARTH University in Costa Rica, where she found a safe haven and many blessings. Everything before her eyes was new. And although the experience sometimes could be overwhelming, she took advantage of every opportunity to learn, give the best of herself, and plant seeds of effort and perseverance that today, 15 years later, have borne great fruit.
This year, Valodia was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in Central America. She won first place in LEADS Mujer (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Advancement, Development & Sustainability for Women), a business support program for Central American women entrepreneurs promoted by INCAE Business School, to which more than 1,700 women applied.
Now back home in Nicaragua, Valodia and her family own and manage Codornic, which produces and sells quail eggs. Her company, with which she won each phase of LEADS Mujer, encompasses everything Valodia considers necessary to achieve personal and collective success.
“In 2018, the active unemployment rate rose to 7% (in Nicaragua). We could see many people with nothing to do, without opportunities, without options. So, we decided to add two quail farmers to our company. Then we went to eight; until we scaled to the 16 families we work with today,” Valodia said. “This is an opportunity for families because it is a project that allows them, in a minimal area, to have a fixed income.”
One of the 16 quail farmers Valodia works with is a women’s cooperative. The majority are housewives and grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren because their daughters had to migrate. She also works with a carpenter who had to quit his job due to his trade’s lack of raw materials. And she works with professionals from the Ministry of Health in her country. Like her, they are all people who want to stay where they are, fighting to improve their communities’ living conditions.
Her business is successful not only because it has gone from selling 45 boxes of eggs per week to 850 boxes but also because it creates new jobs and new opportunities that drive development in her country through a business that, although uncommon, is growing exponentially.
“Returning to my country was something I was very clear about from the beginning. I invite all my colleagues and future colleagues (at EARTH) to return to their countries, not to be afraid. The first years are an investment because the experience is difficult, but it is worth connecting with your roots, with your origin,” she explained.
That young woman who got on a bus so many years ago to come to EARTH today tells her story through tears and with humility and gratitude, knowing that every step she has taken on her way, she has taken with the hope of creating a better world.
And Valodia is certainly succeeding.