Women In Business Challenge Finalist: Stela Maris Da Silva

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Stela sees the opportunity for women to forge a dominant position in the evolution to a sustainable economy and urges female entrepreneurs to share their ideas and ideals, because if a woman doesn’t share an idea, that’s all it will remain. An idea.

By Joëlle Payet (Marketing & Communications, BiD Network)

This week’s finalist is Professor Stela Maris da Silva, a doctor of biotechnology, came up with an organic method to combat a plague that has ravaged Argentinian farming in recent years.

While touring farms in the Mendoza region of Argentina, Professor da Silva noticed the widespread use of chemical pesticides being used to combat the Lobesia botrana plague. Such methods, while effective, are not selective – causing considerable damage to the local ecosystem. Before the use of these chemical pesticides, producers in Argentina maintained an indigenous approach to farming, continuing many techniques. Thus, the implementation of chemicals had significant consequences.

BIOPRO products are developed as an organic and biodegradable means to protect agricultural products of high economic value. The producers themselves do not wish to use the chemical products, and in fact only do so due to legal obligation, aware of the negative impact using chemicals has on their ability to export. It is for this reason the products of BIOPRO present such a viable alternative. Their products are low cost, efficient and easy to use.

Entering a market dominated by multinationals, she and her four female partners hope to attain such status themselves one day.

Currently operating in their local region of Mendoza, Argentina, BIOPRO aims to educate and change farming practices, marketing to small and medium producers who grow only one crop and for whom the control of pests is essential. Mendoza however is by no means a small market with almost 10% of the countries productive hectares found in the province, it provides a perfect platform to scale up production and refine the services offered.

Professor da Silva considers scientific research important for the production of real change – and also for researchers to communicate their findings effectively, dispersing knowledge that can improve the lives of others.

It is the ultimate ambition of BIOPRO, to prove that environmental sustainability and economic growth are not divergent concepts. This is particularly evident in South America, as agricultural practices and ethics are changing; there is an explicit desire to operate in more sustainable ways.

Professor da Silva is always quick to offer gratitude to her team with whom she runs the business. She contends that respecting the differences, qualities and characteristics of each individual in the team – and learning how to manage those differences in a productive way – is essential in ensuring the company moves forward. Ensuring everyone is working toward the same vision of the company has become a crucial factor for start-ups everywhere, especially in the recent turbulent economic conditions.

The economic crisis of 2001, the effects of which are still being felt today, drastically changed the role of women in Argentina, especially in the confines of the economy. As many men lost jobs, women took the opportunity to engage in entrepreneurship alongside their existing domestic commitments, producing household goods as a means to increase the family income.

Government entities have since begun to teach, promote and facilitate women’s entrance into the labor market, seeing the beneficial impact their inclusion has already had.

Professor da Silva sees the opportunity for women to forge a dominant position in the evolution to a sustainable economy and urges female entrepreneurs to share their ideas and ideals, because if a woman doesn’t share an idea, that’s all it will remain. An idea.

For more information about Professor Stela Maris da Silva, check out the Women in Business Challenge.

Since 2009, the Women in Business Challenge has provided support, coaching, visibility and finance to over 600 entrepreneurial women in emerging economies.

This year, five outstanding applicants were selected from almost 300, on account of their potential for growth and the overall quality of their business plans. In the final stage these finalists will receive coaching from professionals before having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with high end investors at the Growing SMEs event at The Hague in November.

Every week, we will be focusing on one of these five women, whose experiences are as varied as they are inspirational. Get to know them and their stories.

Missed the first stories of this series? Meet Nigerian fashion guru Kiki Kamanu, Ghanaian owner of Nuba Foods Kosi Yankey, and Kenyan owner of Solafrique, Lois Gicheru.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Joëlle Payet is Marketing and Communications Coordinator at BiD Network, contributing to sustainable economic growth by stimulating entrepreneurship in emerging markets. With over 42,000 members and 10,000 business plans, bidnetwork.org is the world’s largest online community for emerging market SMEs, coaches and investors. Since 2005, BiD Network has launched 670 businesses, created more than 4700 direct jobs, and mobilized $15 million from investors.