“You have to dare yourself to do things”.
Growing up in Puerto Montt, Daniela Retamales became familiar with the intersection of service work and business. She was an active volunteer in her community but also watched her parents as they managed the companies they owned. Daniela studied Industrial Engineering at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso and went on to earn two Master’s degrees in Management and Social Innovation. After finding inspiration, Daniela started Fundación Prótesis 3D, a business dedicated to making customised prosthetic hands for those in need.
Daniela was disenchanted with the idea of a traditional career path. “I didn’t want to just work for a company where I’m going to be paid at the end of the month, I wanted to change things”, she explained. She began her job search without any particular direction in mind, researching opportunities by attending conferences, speaking to people in different industries, and watching videos online. It wasn’t until seeing a video of a young girl receiving a prosthetic hand that Daniela decided on her own path.
After researching the availability of prosthetics in her area, Daniela realised that in Chile, there are more than 10,000 people in need of prosthetic hands and 90% don’t have the resources needed to acquire one. Her findings also revealed that almost half of those in need are living in impoverished communities. Inspired by the impact of prosthetics, Daniela decided two things: her business had to be a non-profit and she needed a 3D printer.
Daniela purchased a 3D printer and with the help of YouTube tutorial videos, she and her partners learned how to assemble the machine and begin printing. When they presented their first prosthetic hand to its beneficiary, the team realised that their initiative was working. They also learned that the primary objective of the prosthetic isn’t so much about the function of the hand, but that its appearance restores a sense of normalcy to the recipient’s life.
As a well-known organisation in Daniela’s area, Youth Business International member Acción Emprendedora was an integral resource for Fundación Prótesis 3D, enabling them to grow and develop. Through the mentorship program, Daniela received communications and social media training. Additionally, Acción Emprendedora provided Fundación Prótesis 3D with advice about funding. Daniela considers the resources and insights that she gained from Acción Emprendedora as instrumental to the success and growth of her business. With 20 volunteers and 3 part-time employees, Daniela’s long-term goal is to establish a presence throughout the entire country and also expand to printing other types of prosthetics, such as legs.
Fundación Prótesis 3D gives back to the Chilean community in a number of ways, both directly and indirectly. By providing the disabled with prosthetics, Daniela’s business contributes to nurturing a sense of social inclusion. In many cases, those with prosthetics are more likely to be a part of the work force and engage in family life than those who are missing limbs. Fundación Prótesis 3D gives them the confidence to re-join these environments.
Daniela’s business also contributes to labour inclusion, as many of the volunteers are those participating in juvenile detention programs. By including troubled youths in the design, production, and manufacturing processes, Daniela hopes to instil a sense of passion, creativity, and newfound meaning in their lives. Furthermore, by partnering with Chilean Universities, municipalities, and rehabilitation centres, Fundación Prótesis 3D has established a strong ecosystem of support and collaboration—an accomplishment that Daniela is especially proud of.
Before entering the world of entrepreneurship, Daniela never considered that being a woman might be a disadvantage. She recalls times in her career when she was not taken seriously by men, but highlights how these struggles have given her the opportunity to learn and grow. “There are 3 kinds of people. The people who criticise everything because it’s easy, those who give an opinion but don’t take action, and the few who actually make the adjustments - those are the ones who can change things".
She advises other female entrepreneurs to be tenacious:
“Find what you want to do and fight for it. All the experience will make you better”.