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WEGrow A success story: Gabriela Le贸n Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

Gabriela León: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

About the MIF The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) works to support economic growth and poverty reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean through the promotion of investment and private sector development. As part of its program, the MIF seeks to support entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises by creating a favorable ecosystem for early stage financing through angel investing, seed capital, and entrepreneurship. For more information, please visit

About EY EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies over the world. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver our promises to all of our stakeholders. In doing so, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities. For more information about our organization, please visit:

This publication forms part of the study “WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean.” It was commissioned by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), to EY. It has been prepared by EY Mexico with the cooperation and supervision of the MIF’s Early Stage Equity Group. The following people participated in the review process from the MIF: Susana GarciaRobles, Monica Pina Alzugaray, Rebeca Granda Marcos, Xuan-Trang Ho and Elizabeth Terry.

© 2014 Inter-American Development Bank. All rights reserved; may be freely reproduced for any non-commercial purpose. The opinion expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the InterAmerican Development Bank, its Board of Directors, or the countries they represent.

© 2014 Mancera S.C. Member of Ernst & Young Global All rights reserved

WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


Gabriela León: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

Gabriela León was born into a family of entrepreneurs in Mexico. Her father had his own construction business and her mother was a political activist. Thanks to all the entrepreneurial experiences that surrounded her, she learned that she always had to fight in order to be successful and get the best possible results. “Having a father who was an entrepreneur made my siblings and me go through good and bad times. This taught us to never to give up.” Gabriela graduated from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana with a degree in biochemical engineering, a field that has always fascinated her.

HOW DID SHE GET STARTED? In 1999, Gabriela and her brother Sergio had both lost their jobs at the same time, when an opportunity came up. An important company, where Gabriela had worked previously, offered to make them the suppliers of the store’s own line of antibacterial products. For Gabriela and her brother, this was the perfect moment to start their own business. They started their project with just one employee. So Gabriela and her brother were working side by side, manufacturing products, labelling them, filling them, loading the trucks, selling and invoicing. In order to make things work, they divided responsibilities according to their strengths. Sergio, a graphic designer, was in charge of product packaging and trading strategy, while Gabriela took charge of product formulas and managerial duties. They started to analyze how much money they needed to meet their first client’s demand and the funding sources that were available. They pooled their savings and supplemented these funds with a loan from their parents. Her mother has been an important role model in this adventure, as she was an example of a person who always fought for what she believed in, and also supported Gabriela when nobody else around her did.

WHAT CHALLENGES DID SHE FACE? “When I started my business I was single and I remember that my acquaintances were telling me not to do it, as it was better to work for someone else and know that I would get a paycheck.” When Gabriela and Sergio started Gresmex, their cleaning product company, the entrepreneurial environment in Mexico was not as developed as it is today. However, she mentions that at that point they had support from their parents, who guided them through the initial stages of their company.

WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


Gabriela León: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

Working in a male-dominated industry has been difficult for Gabriela. At the factory, it has been hard to get the male employees to follow a woman’s instructions. Also, she says there have been times where people have refused to meet with or talk to her just because she is a woman. However, she believes that when someone is passionate about what she or he is doing, sooner or later doors will open. Being a woman entrepreneur has both advantages but also some disadvantages. Gabriela has benefited from this situation by getting to know her strengths and weaknesses and using both of them to make her company grow. “Women entrepreneurs can be described as stubborn, but some like to call us persistent instead.” According to Gabriela, having the support of your family is essential to success. Being an entrepreneur, wife, and mother all at the same time is hard work. Keeping a balance between her professional and family lives is a challenge she faces every day. “My husband helps me in so many ways”. Her children are among her biggest supporters. For Gabriela, one of the things that has helped her see results is getting her children involved in her achievements and success. They’re aware that their mother’s work has a positive impact on society and they support and encourage her to keep moving forward.


In 2008, after they had already been reinvesting the company’s earnings and growing for almost nine years, Gabriela and her brother decided to invest in research and development. This initiative was motivated by a personal situation that she faced. Gabriela’s son caught a rotavirus, and she was not able to find any products on the market to help her protect her family from this kind of virus. So she saw an opportunity to add value to her products and developed a new line of disinfectant products with a much broader capacity for protection that uses nanotechnology and eliminates up to 99.99% of viruses and bacteria.

Gresmex is a Mexican company that specializes in private-label antibacterial and household care products. Currently, Gresmex operates from a 2,500 square meter facility that employs 75 people and has a daily output capacity of 90 tons.  

Its market is divided in two main segments: Household cleaning products. High-level disinfectant products with applied nanotechnology (Eviter).

WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


Gabriela León: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

WHAT ARE SOME LESSONS LEARNED FROM PAST EXPERIENCES? Gabriela has always known her strengths and weaknesses. This is why she focused on developing a network of mentors around her, and thanks to their advice, she has been able to maintain her company’s focus.

Best advice ever received

Have confidence and trust that your job provides a benefit to society.

“Mentorship has been the key to addressing the weaknesses we had, especially in developing a strategic financial approach that helped us grow our company.”


Greatest mistake ever made …

“My vision for 2030 is to take Gresmex to a global level. We currently have the capacity for exponential growth.” Gresmex plans to position itself on a global scale. Gabriela and her partner have therefore worked on organizational development and retaining talent. She believes that in order to reach her growth targets successfully, it is necessary to promote the credibility of their innovation, which already creates some uncertainty in the market, as it is disruptive. The scientific and technological backing that Gresmex needs has been obtained through universities and well-known and regulated laboratories, where everything is guaranteed by independent third parties. Her company will continue to follow this strategy, mainly since it provides greater acceptance in the market.

Not communicating enough.

Communication between the company’s partners is essential. In Gabriela’s and Gresmex’s case, a lack of communication has caused them to make expensive mistakes. However, Gabriela and her partner have learned how to strengthen communication, making it more timely and effective with the purpose of avoiding misunderstandings, thereby creating a strong, dynamic and trustworthy partnership.

WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


Gabriela León: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur



“There have been very dark moments, to the point where we considered closing Gresmex due to a lack of resources and because of unfair competition in the market. However, this has helped us to think about and understand what we have done wrong in order for us to learn from our mistakes and be able to overcome our obstacles.”

There have been difficult times in the journey to success, but it’s been these tough times that have allowed them to understand their abilities and areas of opportunities.


Believe in yourself. It will allow you to struggle, because you have a potential that you don’t realize yet. Establish clear goals and values in your company. They will guide you during difficult moments. Seek mentorship and training. You will be able to recognize what you need.

” Family support is essential. They must understand that as an entrepreneur you are adding value to society.”

WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


Gabriela Le贸n: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


Gabriela León: A Mexican high-growth woman entrepreneur

We’re making it our purpose to help build a better working world, starting with yours.

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WEGrow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean


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