When 30-year-old Lorraine and his wife decided to start their own business in Mexico City, they had a solid foundation to work from. He had the idea: Xplozione, a company that designs and sells pop-culture inspired gift boxes. She also had expertise, as Lorraine had a bachelor’s degree in communications and was proficient in graphic design programs.
Still, he needed the financial resources and management skills to get his business off the ground.
“Our products were appreciated for their originality,” says Lorraine, “but when we started receiving large orders, we could not fill them due to lack of money to buy additional materials.”
That’s when he discovered the Resilient Futures Program from the International Rescue Committee and the City Foundation. Launched in 2022, the program supports refugees and migrants in Mexico City with skills training, mentorship, financial resources, job placement and start-up support so they can build careers and contribute to economic development in the country.
With the Resilient Futures program, Lorraine and his wife received the capital and mentorship they needed to establish and grow their business.
Read more about Lorraine’s story and impact on Resilient Futures:
grew up in conservative colombia
Lorraine was raised in a small town in the Santander region of Colombia where “people live well but [are] Bound by very conservative norms. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Loraine often experienced prejudice and felt threatened for who she was.
While studying for his bachelor’s degree, he was threatened and harassed by some local men because of his sexual orientation. In time, he decided that he had to leave to ensure his safety.
“I loved being Colombian, and I loved my people, but I didn’t want to continue living like that with that fear anymore,” says Lorraine.
finding love across borders
While living in Colombia, Loraine met his now-wife over the Internet. Their relationship blossomed and they visited each other on short trips, saving for months to afford the trip.
“After two years of a long distance relationship, I decided to move to Mexico with him,” says Lorraine. “Because of this we were able to get married.”
At first, Lorraine lived with his wife’s family, but they later became independent. Lorraine and his wife now live together with their two puppies.
from a small town to mexico city
Lorraine experienced a major cultural shock upon arriving in Mexico City.
“The people here have always been very kind to me, but in the beginning, it was difficult for me to go from a small town that you can walk to in an hour, to the huge metropolis that is Mexico City,” says Lorraine. “The truth is it was hard for me to get used to.”
“Going from a small town to the huge metropolis that is Mexico City was difficult.”
It was also difficult for Lorraine to gain work experience. Even though she had a degree in her field, her job pool was limited. Any company that hired him had to register with the National Institute of Immigration.
Eventually, Lorraine found work as an administrative assistant and a graphic design assistant, which she used to work toward her larger career goal.
building a business from scratch
Lorraine has always been an entrepreneur at heart, but she didn’t have the tools she needed to build her own business.
She says, “In my job, I have stood out for being very skilled and doing quality work, but the truth is that I have always dreamed of doing something of my own since a very young age.” “I had many ideas, but I was not allowed to develop them because of the circumstances I went through.”
“I had many ideas, but I was not allowed to develop them because of the circumstances I went through.”
During the pandemic, one of those ideas came to fruition.
While living in isolation, Lorraine began to suffer from depression and anxiety. So he looked for ways to connect with people and spread joy. That’s when the idea for Xploboxes was born – combining art and creativity to create gift boxes that could be delivered to people’s doorsteps. After completing the first product design, Lorraine and his wife developed the gift box into a business called Xplozione.
“What I love most about Xplozione is the reaction and emotions it elicits in people,” says Lorraine. “Someone could be in a bad situation today and an Xplobox could put a smile on their face. Save a life.”
Lorraine often draws inspiration from her favorite books and movies to create the box. “I think I have a very young soul,” she says. “I love Harry Potter, superheroes, Disney, and especially Ariel; that’s why I have hair like her.”
She even has a name for the corner of her house where she works and keeps her tools: “The Burrow”, inspired by the Weasley family home in “Harry Potter”.
Provides flexible futures support
Lorraine and his wife continued to work in their daily jobs while building their business. However, he did not have enough extra income to invest in his idea.
Then he learned about the Resilient Futures program at a local job fair and explored the opportunities it offered. Resilient Futures is part of IRC’s growing livelihoods programming across Mexico, which seeks to support refugees, asylum seekers and migrants as they find work and build careers.
“We were a little hesitant at first,” says Lorraine. IRC’s influence in the world. After meeting the staff and verifying the quality of their care, I felt completely confident.”
“We didn’t think it was possible for an organization to train you and give you financial support without getting something in return.”
With Resilient Futures, Lorayne received training and mentorship covering aspects such as creating a business plan, defining a budget, and launching a digital marketing campaign. Xplozione was also selected to receive seed capital, which Lorraine could invest to grow her company and execute her business plan.
“For me, the mentoring program has been equally, if not more, important than Seed Capital,” she says. The courses have helped me identify where I am making mistakes, and they have broadened my horizons to consider other possibilities.”
making her mark
Lorraine has lived in Mexico City for six years. She feels at home there now. She is no longer afraid to use public transport, she travels around the city on a motorbike and enjoys local food.
Thereafter, she hopes to continue her Xplozione business and explore new entrepreneurial ideas.
One of his biggest dreams, for example, is to open a cafe-bar in his hometown in Colombia. “It doesn’t matter that I’m managing it remotely; I want to give back and create a place that leaves my mark,” says Lorraine. I’m on the right track.”