Founder and CEO of Wanuna.Store, an L.A. based social enterprise that connects consumers to ethically sourced goods from the Andean region. Gabriela is a qualified attorney in Ecuador, and an HSE Specialist with a strong knowledge in international trade of goods, workplace management systems and conformity assessment processes.
After 7+ years working as an HSE Consultant, in 2016, she ventured abroad to New York City and worked in the nonprofit industry managing institutional workshops and fundraising strategies to support the integration of immigrants in the U.S.
This journey brought Wanuna to life. Gabriela conceived a hybrid model where fair trade compliance, project management, and social impact merge. Wanuna represents the soul of diversity and an inclusive state of mind.
She lives in L.A. with her husband. Wanuna is her full-time job and continues to do specialized consulting work in conformity assessment of safety goods along the supply chain.
One of the greatest pleasures here at Social Venturers is when a changemaker reaches out to share her story. This is how I met Gabriela Martinez, founder and CEO of The Wanu Project.
Born and raised in Ecuador, Gaby moved to New York City in 2016 and is now living in L.A. where she founded her social enterprise Wanuna Store, one of three pillars of The Wanu Project.
“I am a qualified attorney in Ecuador, and earned my MSc in Safety, Health, and Environment. For more than five years I worked in international trade of goods where I managed conformity and risk assessment strategies for different clients. As part of these experiences, I was able to travel the world and experience first-hand how goods are made. I learned a lot about the impact of fair working conditions on the wellbeing of workers, but also on the productivity and culture within the manufacturing business. Along with these manufacturing insights, I gained a greater appreciation for artisanal goods made by Indigenous communities. I found myself in New York in 2016 and switched to the nonprofit industry. As part of the team at Upwardly Global, a nonprofit that helps immigrants & refugees succeed in professional careers in the US, I supported the economic integration of immigrants and refugees, managing development strategies with a focus on individual giving.
What struck me in this new environment was the philanthropic generosity and willingness to do something here in the US. I sometimes get the impression that in Latin America we are not familiar with all the benefits that philanthropy offers and the importance of exercising inclusion in the many steps of an entrepreneurial journey. In the US, there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit of taking action.”
And that’s exactly what Gabriela did after two and a half years in New York. Combining her experience in international trade of goods and fundraising, she launched Wanuna:
“Wanuna.store is a platform that connects consumers to ethically sourced goods while contributing to the sustainable development of community-based economies and purpose-driven brands. I have sourced a variety of products from indigenous communities of Ecuador in collaboration with social enterprises, co-ops, and social innovation hubs. The ultimate goal is to go global and be able to fund programs in support of women living with less than a dollar/day.”
I feel that international trade has the power to improve environmental, social, and occupational standards in the supply chain. And inclusive trade creates the opportunity to improve the livelihoods of rural artisans with a history of poverty and neglect.
Self-taught entrepreneur and preserver of culture
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and have learnt how to use and manage different resources out there. I am a self-taught entrepreneur. I started out by familiarizing myself with the legal framework of starting a business in the US, being a lawyer certainly gave me a leg up. From there, I figured out the operational side of things by calling on my network of social innovators and entrepreneurs both here in the US and back home in Ecuador. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I would have to find a way to build a bridge between the Ecuadorian ecosystem and the American consumer market.
As an immigrant myself, I was able to rely heavily on this community here on the West Coast. Many of us are extremely well educated and trained in our home countries. Once we arrive in the US, however, our certifications are not entirely recognized, so we find ourselves either starting all over or embarking on alternative endeavors. The upside of that cultural integration is that many immigrants have a lot to bring to the table, and are willing to transfer knowledge among its peers. We need to continue to celebrate our heritage and the potential outcome from blending global experiences and expertise.”
A more inclusive society helps us keep cultures alive. That’s what I’m trying to promote through Wanuna.store.
How can we support you in your efforts?
“Collaboration is everything. At Wanuna we are actively looking to collaborate and to create partnerships that could potentially help all stakeholders to materialize and execute on ideas.
Some specific areas of collaboration we have identified that are key for Wanuna’s development are:
- Marketing and social media strategies
- Online community growth
- Relevant trade shows, events and other platforms to showcase products.”
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Former lawyer and non-profit fundraiser. Self-taught social entrepreneur. Preserver of cultural diversity.