Andres Catalan always dreamt of starting his own business. After being laid off of his metalworking job of 21 years, he finally made it happen. His family longed to stay in the Atacama region of Chile—the relaxed pace appealed over the bustle of Santiago, where they used to live. So rather than go back in search of work in the big city, he took his severance package, found a need in Atacama, and invested in it.
It was 10 years ago that Andres launched Revestimiento Caucho Atacama, an iron parts manufacturing company that utilizes rubber for added protection and safety in tools and equipment used in mining operations. Though he faced many challenges—an inevitability for a new business—he managed to maintain a steady operation and support his family. “The first two years were very hard,” Andres said of the time spent trying to educate customers about the benefits of using metal products protected by rubber. It took some convincing, but eventually, he secured a long-term client.
In 2016, the Foundation and Lundin Mining’s Candelaria mine launched the Supplier Development Program (PDP), a joint initiative to help local entrepreneurs and small business owners become suppliers of the mining industry. Revestimiento Caucho Atacama was one of the 30 businesses that qualified to participate in this three-year program, which aimed at helping local companies address gaps that may hinder their productivity and improve their management systems while stimulating growth and expansion to new markets.
Andres said it helped him train his employees in specific procedures to improve human resources, create updated job descriptions, bolster financial management, and overall, “to organize the company in a better and more efficient way.” With help from Chile’s Production Development Corporation (CORFO), a partner in the program, Andres’ business also became ISO 9001 certified, a designation that helps companies fulfill standards of quality management systems to continuously meet customer and stakeholder needs.
30 local businesses supported
870 local jobs supported
Over $1.4 million USD in contracts with Candelaria
The program also helped Andres foster new relationships. “The networking aspect was really important,” he said. Now, one of the company’s core clients is Lundin Mining’s Candelaria mine, which utilizes the manufactured pieces for local mine operations. And his list of suppliers keeps growing. “The program helped us look beyond today,” he said, “and extend our products and services to other regions.” His objective for the near future is to open a sales office in Santiago, where his oldest son is completing university studies.
Andres truly cares about his fellow community members. He recognizes the contribution made by his nine full-time employees to the operation of his business by paying them above minimum wage plus annual bonuses when possible. “They have families to take care of, and I want them to feel proud of the work they do,” says Andres.
“This business is definitely a dream come true,” Andres said. “I made it happen, but it wasn’t easy.” To other hopeful entrepreneurs, he advises: “be persistent, and know that you’re probably going to fall down and get up many times.”
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