AUSTIN, TEXAS —
Mariana Costa Checa, a Peruvian entrepreneur, runs a coding boot camp for women in Peru, many of whom have no formal education.
She attended the South by Southwest conference and festivals in Austin, Texas, as part of a Peruvian contingent showing its work and sharing the challenges of starting an enterprise.
Entrepreneurship is one of the main themes at South by Southwest, which also includes artists, musicians, elected officials and company representatives.
Costa Checa spoke to VOA about overcoming challenges, including misconceptions of poverty.
"I grew up with a whole set of concepts around what getting a job entails, how to behave at work," she said. "I realized if you grow up in a context where you've never seen someone working in an office, in a formal sector, then you don't have that basis. ... That entails a series of challenges in how to prepare someone to not only get a job, but be able to sustain a career."
But helping underserved communities means truly understanding their conditions, she said.
"Much more goes into making a decision than just the sort of consumer aspect," Costa Checa said. "A lot of it is the stress of poverty."
Costa Checa was joined by Vania Masias, founder of D1 Asociacion Cultural, a dance program for at-risk youth in Lima.
Also attending was Isabel Medem, whose startup provides and services portable toilets in Peru's poorest households.
Like other entrepreneurs here, she took a gamble.
"We didn't know how long we would be around," said Medem. "We didn't know whether the model would be successful. So it was really, like, 'Six months — we'll just try and see.' "