10 Grassroots Entrepreneurs Who Are Putting Bolivia on the Map

The Queen of Alpaca
The Queen of Alpaca | © BCP Designs
A number of inspiring individuals throughout Bolivia have found both financial and personal success in creative ways. From coffee gurus to robotic engineers and everything in between, here’s our list of 10 noteworthy Bolivian entrepreneurs.

Mauricio Diez de Medina

Life as a financial services worker was comfortable yet uninspiring for Mauricio Diez de Medina, until one day he seized the chance to finance a coffee-growing operation with a group of Colombian entrepreneurs. After years promoting fair-trade practices and proliferating quality beans throughout the country, he opened the popular Cafe Roaster Boutique in La Paz, proving that Bolivia’s best beans needn’t be exported.

Mauricio giving a speech at Roaster Boutique  © Roaster Boutique

Ana Lucia Gutierrez

Bolivian born, US-based blogger Ana Lucia Gutierrez has made quite an impact on the online fashion world, mostly thanks to a rapidly growing social media following across her numerous vibrant and quirky accounts. She writes about the latest trends and her travel adventures, oftentimes landing sponsorship from big-name brands.

Big Brown Eyes © Big Brown Eyes

Carmen Rosa

The original cholita wrestlers, a group of powerful indigenous women who perform death-defying WWE-style feats, were hopelessly exploited in the early days of the sport. At least until Carmen Rosa – aka La Campeon – came along and shook up the status quo with her newly formed Cholitas Wrestling Foundation. Rather than letting male promotors hoard all the takings, Rosa fought vehemently to ensure her female colleagues could receive a fair slice of the pie.

Santa Mala

A heartwarming rags-to-riches story, these three Aymara sisters grew up in poverty in a ramshackle El Alto neighborhood. Upon moving to Brazil in search of better-paid work in a textile factory, they quickly realized they could utilize their love for hip-hop and their knowledge of fashion to create an edgy urban label for the local female youth. The clothing line quickly proved a hit among São Paulo’s migrant Bolivian community, and offered the sisters an opportunity to pursue their passion for lyricism.

Esteban Quispe Churata

Known more for his engineering ingenuity than his entrepreneurship, Esteban Quispe Churata – the so-called “Genius from Patacamaya” – made international headlines in 2016 for his ability to transform everyday waste into fully functioning robots. Since then, he’s given presentations at top universities and received offers from prestigious tech companies. Nevertheless, the humble teenager is choosing to stay and support his family in his impoverished Andean hometown.

Jaqi Aru

Aymara is one of Bolivia’s most prominent indigenous languages, yet it’s still threatened with extinction. Determined to preserve this vital piece of their cultural heritage, the Jaqi Aru group set about translating one of the most popular websites on earth. And after months of painstaking work, Facebook is now in Aymara: a surefire way to reconnect the younger generation with their ancestral roots.

The Jaqi Aru team © Jaqi Aru

Bernardo Bonilla

Inspired by his experiences abroad, 25-year-old Bernardo Bonilla returned to Bolivia with a new drive to transform his travel for passion into a viable local business. Upon identifying a gap in the market for men’s gifts, he and his family opened the Vagabond enterprise, a Bolivian leather-goods outlet that sells travel-related gear (among other things) to big-name clients such as Gustu, Huweii, and Banco Fie.

Beatriz Canedo Patiño

Lovingly referred to as the “Queen of Alpaca,” Beatriz Canedo Patiño is one of Bolivia’s most successful fashion designers and a renowned figure on the international stage. After making inroads with her haute couture designs overseas, she returned to Bolivia to promote her homeland’s potential with a focus on sustainability and fair trade practices.

The Queen of Alpaca © BCP Designs

Boris Vargas

Sometimes the best ideas are the most simple. And sometimes the idea involves a variation on a classic board game. Boris Vargas’ vision spawned Evopolio, an outrageous tabletop game where roadblocks and witchdoctors take the place of Monopoly’s free parking, chance, and community chest.

Evopolio © Evopolio

Ericka Suárez Weisea

The youngest of a renowned fashion-designing family, Erica Suárez Weisea continued her family tradition in 2011 with the opening of her mixed haute couture and prêt-à-porter line. By targeting affordable high-end fashion at affluent Bolivian women, her product became an overnight success and has since caught the eye of the Hollywood and New York elite. Yet she continues to remain faithful to her roots, basing her collections on uniquely Bolivian themes such as the stunning Salar de Uyuni or the exotic Amazonian Mojeños people.