LatAm List – Sofía Chaves is the founder and CEO of IGLUW, a Colombian platform that facilitates integral property management by optimizing finances, automating processes, digitizing errands, and modernizing property administration.
Last May, IGLUW won Digital Insurance Bogotá 2019 where they competed against other Colombian fintechs. In November 2019, IGLUW was chosen to participate in Apps.co and Seedstars’ International Expansion Program which took place from November 11th to 16th in Mexico. We had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Sofia to hear about her experience and insights on being a female entrepreneur in Latin America.
Q: What does your company do? What made you take the leap to start your own company?
A: IGLUW is everything your building needs in one place. Through our platform, we connect horizontal property supply and demand, reducing the cost of customer loyalty and acquisition while increasing the opportunities for business between supply (residents and administrators) and demand (businesses and service providers to horizontal property). We are transforming the horizontal property market by integrating solutions into one platform.
Q: How do you juggle being a university student and a CEO at the same time?
A: It’s all about organization, optimization, and sacrifice. As a university student, it is already almost impossible to have a social life, maintain good grades, and get a decent amount of sleep at the same time. As a student working a full-time job, the same thing happens, but I would say it requires much more sacrifice. On many occasions, I’ve sacrificed hours of sleep or missed hanging out with friends to be able to move forward with my company. Oftentimes I’ll get little sleep to write an exam, and right after I’ll be heading over to a business meeting. It’s a very dynamic life where time is very valuable and cannot be bought, so you have to know how to use it in the best possible way and optimally organize each of your activities.
Q: How did your family and friends react to your decision to start a company?
A: My family completely supported me. My dad was the first person who was invested in the company and believed in me. Today he is the one who guides and helps me in many decisions; his experience has been really important in the process and the pivots that the company has had. As for my friends, in the beginning, they were a bit indifferent because they didn’t understand the dimension of the work I was doing. However, over time many began to admire what we were doing and would come to ask for help because they wanted to get involved in entrepreneurship.
Q: Can you speak to specific challenges or benefits of being a female entrepreneur in Latin America?
A: The main challenge for me is to gain credibility in the entrepreneurship market where the number of men still exceeds that of women. Another factor that works against me is my age, which lowers my credibility even more. To overcome that barrier, you have to be confident in yourself and be able to transmit that to your peers in order to gain their trust. As for benefits: we are a minority, and because of that we are able to come together to raise our voices and say “Here we are”. Recently, there are many programs that are supporting women that are looking to start their own business, however, many women are not participating out of fear.
Q: What can the ecosystem do to help women unleash their potential?
A: Become a collaborative ecosystem, free from prejudices, that pursues the same objective: make an impact. We all have solutions that optimize a company’s time or money, or positively impact a market or a community, so why not work together to reach our goals?
Q: Who is your greatest role model?
A: I have always admired two people. The first is not a woman but he is a person that I consider brilliant and admirable: Bill Gates. Although many consider him an arrogant person, I admire his intelligence and persistence, as well as his desire to create solutions from a very young age. I admire what he did with Microsoft and how far he’s taken it. I admire the person he is today, who after retiring uses his intelligence to continue impacting the world by creating solutions to social problems. That’s what I want to do; I want to lead my company to a point of success where I can retire and continue directly impacting vulnerable communities using everything I learned in my journey as an entrepreneur.
The second person is J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, which have been successful worldwide. However few people know the details of how she managed to transform her problems into an incredible story. She is a clear example of persistence. After being rejected twelve times by different publishers she kept trying and eventually became more successful than she could have ever imagined.
Q: What are your recommendations to young Latina entrepreneurs growing their own companies?
A: First of all, have a goal and the passion to carry it out. For me, those are the two key components of starting a business. The initial idea does not have to be perfect from the beginning, nor does the business have to immediately break even. You can learn, improve, and pivot. I’ve had to change the monetization model, the business model, and our client focus, among other things. Don’t lose hope at the first fall. Instead, learn from your experiences and get back up stronger than before to meet your initial goal. Be sure of yourself so that you can transmit security to others when talking about your entrepreneurship.