Martha E. Wille

Year founded: 

As a producer of certified gluten-free pasta and snacks, Coronilla supports organic rural products for export and gives preference to minorities in its hiring process.

Focus: Labour Conditions and Unemployment, Trade
Geographic Area of Impact: Bolivia
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 100
Annual Budget: US$ 1 million (2009)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Bolivia, 2005

Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, is characterized by stark inequality. In urban areas 60% of the population lives below the poverty line, and in rural areas the number is as high 80%. Many of the rural poor, including a large part of the local Indian population, depend on agriculture, earning unstable and low wages. These communities have little access to international markets, making economic development opportunities challenging and further exacerbating poverty conditions.

Innovation and Activities
Coronilla was a traditional family pasta business until cheap foreign exports began to drive the business into bankruptcy. It was re-launched in 1997 by Martha Wille, the daughter of the founder, who diversified the company’s product lines to produce healthy, organic products largely for export to Europe, the US and Oceania. The reinvented company aims to be economically sustainable with a social conscience.

Coronilla wants to fight poverty by having a positive impact throughout its value chain. The company buys from local suppliers, supporting the production of organic produce in poor rural areas. Buying ingredients from local producers following fair trade principles, Coronilla provides a stable source of revenue for hundreds of families. It buys a large proportion of its prime ingredients from impoverished communities of the Bolivian Altiplano, providing a source of income and a chance of survival to the rural poor in the region. The organic food products it exports offer a significant opportunity to develop Bolivia’s economy. Coronilla is certified for social responsibility by the Swiss-based Institute for Marketecology (IMO).

Coronilla employees have a very important place in the company’s strategy; a majority of them are women, minorities and handicapped people. Staff members benefit from continual vocational training and certified fair trade conditions by the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT). The company is also subject to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) ecological and hygiene practices, and runs various environmental programmes. In addition to promoting organic agriculture, which is sustainable and more environmentally friendly than conventional agriculture, the company recycles its solid waste and was the first to respect the city of Cochabamba's environmental laws for companies.

Coronilla’s business plan has been recognized for excellence at the Forum of Investors in New Ventures, winning investment from BID, CAF, UNCTAD and the World Resources Institute. The challenge Coronilla faces is how to replicate its model across South America.

The Entrepreneur
Martha Wille was influenced by the social convictions of her father and incorporated them into the family business. She is convinced that change can be achieved by reducing the poverty gap, incorporating women and handicapped minorities into the workforce, and through other tasks of a socially conscious nature. Through the Guillermo Wille Foundation, she is working to encourage other Bolivian companies to adopt CSR policies.