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PerMicro (Italy)

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Are you too busy to open an ironing board? Are you tired of ironing? Would you pay a professional to do this job for you?

To these questions, the many customers of Cristina Téllez Velázquez, heading La Catrina Ironing shop in Istrana (Italy), definitely answered “yes”. Cristina used to work for a construction company in Mexico where she met her husband, Luigi. “Luigi and I decided to get married and write a new chapter of our life in Italy. The first years in Italy have been quite hard for me as I was used to work but could not find any job because I did not speak Italian. So, I decided to become my own employer and launched my start-up,” she recalls.

Cristina heard about PerMicro, a micro-credit provider for entrepreneurs, through a friend: “when I entered PerMicro’s Mestre branch, I had a very precise business idea in mind: opening an ironing shop in Istrana, a town near Treviso, in the Veneto region, and offer a qualitative but low-cost service to my customers so that they may save time and money. I had already carried out a market analysis and checked the presence of other ironing shops in the surroundings. Given that PerMicro does not ask for real warranties, I thought, this is what suits me!” Thanks to a EUR 20 000 loan, Cristina opened La Catrina Ironing shop in spring 2016 and though still a new activity, her customer base is expanding each and every day. “The first month’s sales volume was 60% of the assigned budget. The second month even reached 75%. I want to maintain low prices. Some launderettes in town also offer ironing services but at a higher price,” she says.

Throughout this adventure, Cristina has not been alone. She is supported by her husband Luigi who is the technical manager of the ironing shop, Stefano Guerra, in charge of the Eastern Veneto region for PerMicro, and Neraida, her mentor from the PerMicroLab Association.

As most immigrants, Cristina is a hard-working person and looks to the future: “I plan to buy two additional tumble-dryers by the end of the year. I also hope to hire additional employees and concentrate efforts on opening new shops in nearby towns,” she adds.

Cristina’s project convinced Stefano right from the beginning. “Professional ironing shops are a very common type of business in the Lombardia region, whereas in Veneto there are still very few and thus represent a niche market. Cristina’s activity is also innovative since she offers specific services including home collection and delivery. I strongly believe we will reach October’s sales forecast. Cristina does not miss out on one single commercial opportunity in the neighbouring region and she is extremely active on social networks.”

PerMicro helped Cristina build up a strong and viable project. As a team, they developed her idea from the operational side until the drafting of the business plan with Neraida’s help. “Costs, revenues, break-even point: Cristina was very collaborative and interested in the economic sides of her activity. She shared with us her to do list, logistical costs, organisational issues. When you find someone so teamwork-oriented, everything is much more encouraging,” Stefano enthusiastically says.

The team regularly talks over the phone and Cristina meets Neraida directly in her shop. Cristina is pleased to have found a structure that suited the majority of her needs. “Neraida was extremely helpful especially in setting up the activity. When I arrived in Italy I had language issues and she helped me to make my way through the intricate jungle of Italian bureaucracy and administration in order to start my business.”

Cristina’s project was backed by the Employment and Social Innovation Program (EaSI), the European Commission’s new programme for Employment and Social Innovation, intended to fight social exclusion and poverty and to improve working conditions. “Thanks to our fruitful collaboration with the European Investment Fund (EIF), PerMicro is able to support more and more skilled and talented individuals who discover their passion for self-employment and entrepreneurship. Their stories, just like Cristina’s, are simple but meaningful: they address inclusion and finding their own space in society,” concludes Stefano.

Company: La Catrina (Italy)

Type of business: Ironing shop
EU-supported loan trough PerMicro

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Italy, please refer to:
http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/it

 

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