A version of the story originally appeared on WEConnect’s website.

Madelaine Artavia Sotela founded Arquitectura Arquenz (Arquenz Architecture) in 2002, after graduating as an architectural drafter. Studying architecture had been a challenge, as she needed to support her son, so she started doing architectural drawings at home. Then, a client to whom she had made a model and drawing plans asked if she would build the house that she had drawn. She was surprised, but took the risk of starting her own construction business.

"I had never run a project on my own, but I had the experience of having worked with my father, who was a construction supervisor and taught me much of the work as a child," says Madelaine. “My passion for my work comes from those childhood memories."

Madelaine started her business and kept studying architecture with many difficulties along the way. Between work and raising her son, it was not until 2012 that she managed to earn her architect diploma. From that moment, though, her company has grown and she and her team have seized many opportunities.

Some of these opportunities have come through WEConnect International. Madelaine has inspired WEConnect International’s entire global team. Out of more than 500 certified women’s businesses in nearly 20 countries, her story of success was chosen for WEConnect International’s new video demonstrating the organization’s commitment to connecting women business owners to corporate buyers.

Arquitectura Arquenz is a construction company and equal opportunity employer based in Costa Rica that generates jobs throughout the country. Typically, the company is able to provide opportunities to people with low education levels but who have fine and gross motor skills. Many of these employees have limited options to earn a living otherwise. Arquitectura Arquenz offers part-time employment for youth who is still going to school while they work, as well.

Arquitectura Arquenz has had to confront “machismo” in a few communities where construction is seen as a typical male dominant industry. With the help of WEConnect International they have been able to have visibility in global markets and win contracts with multinational corporations. With the increase in projects and sales, the company has tripled its number of employees extending its impact on the community.

The business success was also instilled Madelaine with more confidence and made her role model to other women who now approach her for advice in establishing and growing their own companies.

Madelaine found out about WEConnect International when she met Costa Rica market lead Antonina Sequeira at an event with Banca Mujer. Antonina told Madelaine about all the opportunities that certification offers including access to events that could lead to lucrative business deals. Convinced of the value, Madelaine secured her certification in August 2014 just in time to attend a "Constructing the Americas" event in the U.S.

"I got on a plane for the first time in my life to attend the event, and had to rush to obtain a passport and a U.S. visa. I learned a lot in the forums, and I also made connections with potential suppliers and customers during the conference. The experience was wonderful and unforgettable."

Just two months later, Madelaine was making connections back in Costa Rica. She met with Luis Bolaños Alfaro, the purchasing manager of a Marriott Hotel in Costa Rica and presented her portfolio. After providing all of her credentials and qualifications and after numerous meetings, Madelaine won a contract with the hotel on March 4, 2015. Today, she is working on three additional contracts for Marriott International – a WEConnect International corporate member.

"This purchase order has had a very positive impact on my business. The Marriott Purchasing Manager recommended me to other Marriott locations in Costa Rica. For Arquenz this means opportunity and recognition in the market. For me this project means taking on a new challenge. Our team will give their best to make the project a success, adding experience and recommendations for future work, but more importantly a great responsibility to demonstrate the great potential we have as women entrepreneurs and thus opening the doors to opportunities for other certified WEConnect International women’s business enterprises."

Madelaine Artavia Sotela on one of her construction sites. Photo; Arquitectura Arquenz SA

Madelaine Artavia Sotela on one of her construction sites. Photo; Arquitectura Arquenz SA