Business & Economy

Cuban entrepreneur not letting pandemic, economic crisis derail her dreams

By Raquel Martori

Havana, Jun 7 (EFE).- Loypa Izaguirre, owner of a small store in Old Havana that offers customers personally designed clothing, cocktails, tapas and live music, is part of a new generation of young Cuban entrepreneurs trying to grow a thriving business despite an economic crisis in her homeland and the ongoing pandemic.

Color Cafe, which the 33-year-old woman launched in 2018 in a remodeled, more-than-century-old locale and converted into a multi-disciplinary, modern bar and fashion workshop, recently reopened after being forced to shut down for two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Every day there’s a new challenge that changes your outlook, and you have to face it,” Izaguirre said in an interview with Efe.

The self-taught designer and entrepreneur said the problems can suddenly pile up but she also stressed the importance of maintaining a positive and can-do attitude.

That resilience was evident in 2020 and 2021 when, although she was forced to close Color Cafe and materials were scarce, she obtained fabric, thread, buttons and other recyclable material from friends and continued to manufacture clothing and started making face masks.

Izaguirre also imported fabric from abroad and used them to make small wallets, purses and other fashion accessories.

Skirts, blouses, dresses and clothing for all shapes and sizes comprise the main product offering of this Havana company, one of the more than 3,600 micro, small and medium enterprises that have been approved in recent months in Cuba.

Private enterprises had been prohibited since 1968, but they were authorized once again last year as part of a package of measures to revive the Caribbean island’s ailing economy.

Izaguirre said the high price of her store’s merchandise is regrettable but that at present she lacks the capacity and resources to raise production.

“Fabric is expensive. The store is small. And I have to pay my employees (15 in all) well so they feel motivated to work every day and give a good effort to make quality clothing items,” she said.

Foreign women living in Havana make up part of her clientele, although she also tries to adjust her prices to appeal to the Cuban shoppers who frequent her store. And some customers visit Color Cafe in search of “made-to-measure” shirts for men.

Her designs are notable for their white, red and blue colors (those of the Cuban flag), ruffles, sway skirts and stylistic references inspired by the 1940s and 1950s.

One recent example of Izaguirre’s spirit of persistence was her maiden fashion show a few days ago in Havana, an event held despite a torrential downpour and persistent fears about public gatherings amid the pandemic.

“All the people who worked on it know one another and we were determined” to make the show happen, she said.

Izaguirre said there is a debate among many in Cuba on whether to stay and try to make projects work on the island or emigrate abroad.

“I’ve decided to stay with the prospect of making my way with my Cuban, tropical style and flavor, with a design and value-added that I think will make it possible to expand abroad. And we’re going to give it a go,” she said.

The young woman said she is satisfied with the results achieved thus far. “We’ve positioned ourselves (and the customers) recognize the quality and the work we’re doing.”

The project also is “sustainable,” according to Izaguirre, who said she wishes she had access to more resources but is convinced a solution can always be found with “creativity and human capital.”

The designer said her focus is on the future and on leaving a lasting mark.

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