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PuertoRicoWOW News Service
Ramonita Torres: A Woman Of Strength
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin
March 10, 2001
SAN JUAN At home and at work, Ramonita Torres is the most respected, successful, competent, and admired woman in the world. Her skillful hands, strong disposition, and million-dollar smile have taken her from housewife to businesswoman in less than two years.
During this year's Women's Week, Torres said she has plenty to be proud of. At 37, she is not only a mother of four and head of a family well acquainted with the hardships of juggling limited economic resources, but has also successfully established her own clothing manufacturing business with the help of the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration (ADSEF by its Spanish acronym) Small Businesses Project.
The project, which is part of the Tax Incentive Program, was created last year to give its participants a shot at beginning their own businesses by receiving a loan from the Economic Development Bank.
Through the program, Torres completed an eight-month training in high couture manufacturing with local fashion designer Mirta Rubio. She was also required to complete a course on small businesses administration.
Torres said the program didn't just help her establish her company, but also gave her the opportunity to rid herself from the stigma of being a welfare beneficiary.
"When you receive financial aid, people treat you so badly that you end up believing that's the kind of treatment you really deserve. I used to think I was worth nothing," said Torres, who added that being president of "Asociadas de la Moda" has changed all that.
Jose Toro, the project's executive director, said similar endeavors are taking place with groups of women in Bayamon, Caguas, Mayagüez, and Ponce.
Torres said she began her manufacturing company with a $100,000 loan to buy equipment, materials, and to cover personnel expenses. Despite her lack of a college education and work experience, Torres has proven to be an excellent businesswoman and administrator. She's among the project's top businesses that have been able to keep up with their loan payments and have kept a good management record so far, according to ADSEF.
Although she declined to disclose information about her business' cost-effectiveness, Torres said her first year in business was very promising and has even placed employment ads to hire more personnel.
Together with eight other employees, Torres manufactures children's apparel for several local clothing lines such as Reina Mora, Papalote, and Blue Moon purses, which can be found in stores like Infinito and Bora Bora.
The nine women own the business, which means they all receive a share of the company's yearly profits.
Working Monday through Friday at minimum wage and sometimes over 40 hours a week, Torres said their work isn't for the faint of heart.
"A small business requires discipline and a desire to work. Sometimes I get here at 8 a.m., and I don't leave until midnight," said Torres, who added that her goals are to own her own house, a car, and provide her children with a good future.
Torres' good luck strikes at a time when many manufacturing companies on the island have shut down operations, leaving hundreds of women out of work.
Torres' work code has served as an example to all of her employees, who share her same background and socioeconomic standing.
"I see myself with a house and a car of my own one day. But I don't see any of this happening without Ramonita. Ever since we started with the program, we knew she had what it takes to be the leader of our company," Ruth Rivera said.
Torres wishes that her sacrifice will also give hope to many other women who want to progress and offer their children a better lifestyle.
"I urge women to get out there and look for a job. In the needle industry, there is still plenty to do," Torres said. "Other factories may have shut down, but there is still hope. There is still us. We want to show the world that the people in Puerto Rico know how to sew, and know how to do it well."