I’ve always felt particularly inspired and moved by Venezuelans who, despite what they are going through, have the energy and the drive to start their own businesses and companies, betting on the “sinking ship” that most people are forced to flee from. I believe that being an entrepreneur in Venezuela in the current crisis is an act of rebellion and the ultimate profession of love to a country made of people that refuse to give up. To do this with joy in the midst of the despair that blackouts and a minute to minute inflation rates pose, represents the strongest show of strength.
Antonio Moreno is one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met, his energy is contagious and warm. He is known by most as Micheal Jackson’s son, and has lived in El Encantado, South Petare his entire life.
Antonio is aware of what people outside of Petare think of his barrio, it’s the place where “malandros” [venezuelan slang word for muggers] hide, nevertheless, with his work he’s trying to change the image that people have of Petare.
Antonio began to work at age 14 in a local restaurant, as a dishwasher. He recalls working extra shifts in exchange for the chance to take his girlfriend on a date to the same restaurant he worked at. “Imagine a 15 year old boy taking his girlfriend to a restaurant”- He says with a dreamy smile. He then studied at the culinary school “Instituto Superior Mariano Moreno” in an uptown part of Caracas, where he specialized in baking.
He was the only one of his class who came from Petare and he remembers being the only person to take the bus back home. After graduating, one of his professors offered him the deal of a lifetime: he would give him the seed investment, the necessary machinery and a place in the shopping mall “Centro Comercial Terrazas del Avila” to start his very own bakery!
This seemed like a dream come true as Antonio had always dreamed of having his own bakery. After a couple of weeks though, he became disillusioned by the idea, he asked himself - why would he open his bakery in a shopping mall, if his own street didn’t have a bakery? Antonio constantly asked himself why he had to go to places like “Las Mercedes” to have a good meal, or to enjoy a delicious pastry.
He wanted to start a business, but right there, in the place where he was born and raised and had called home his whole life.
Of course there are shops in Petare and street food stalls, and places where people can have lunch, but Antonio was aiming for something bigger. He wanted his barrio to have places as nice as those in the planned city, with embroidered napkins, and bread with custom made packaging that spoke of the story of his barrio. His professor and former boss, wasn’t going to risk investing in Petare, so he gave him some silverware as a gift, sold him some appliances and wished him luck.
Antonio got his close friend Moises on board as his partner. He then began baking bread at his own house and selling them on his mother’s porch. They began developing different types of bread which they named after the most important places in their barrio: bread that tastes like “La Ceiba”, another one that tasted like “Matapalo” that honored the identity of their barrio and the story behind it. Soon enough their bread gained fame and little by little they gained more and more clients, they started facing problems due to a lack of machinery to make larger amounts of bread at a time.
Antonio always says that “En tiempos de crisis las mentes brillantes logran el éxito”, this translates into “in times of crisis, bright minds reach success”, so what should’ve been the biggest set back turned into his biggest motivation.They began building their own machinery from used parts of broken down home appliances and scrap material.
Antonio is convinced they can overcome any obstacle through inventiveness, that’s how they built their dough sheeting machine with an old washing machine electric motor, the timing belt of a run down car, the steel doors of a broken down refrigerator, a bicycle wheel, old steel pipes and various metal parts of run down cars, saving them over 2500 dollars.
Antonio knows that “People want good things, quality things,” the crisis has taken a lot away from people and Antonio says that it also made people forget that they deserve quality in any service. The regulation of prices, trained people to believe that accessible services and goods shouldn’t have good quality and don’t have to be delivered with care. Antonio says people forgot they deserved care, regulation of prices destroyed competition, the customer's needs failed to be important anymore. There are bakeries in Petare but none of them do what Antonio and Moises do. Antonio tries to make his customers feel valued and satisfied with their products and does what they have to do to get the best prices and the best products. Their profit is very low per product so they aim to sell as much as they can produce.
They go as far as “El Mercado de Coche” (approximately an hour away from Petare) and “La Colonia Tovar” (approximately 2 hours away from Petare) to get the best quality products at the best possible price. He believes that by doing so, he will encourage other people in his barrio to begin their own businesses and to aim to provide even better service and better products.