Mosaic Stories

    Claudia Barona & Andres Benavides

    Claudia and Andres always knew that their passion was to help protect the environment; they just weren’t sure what exactly they could do to fulfill this.  After Claudia lost her job as a mechanical engineer they understood that it was time to make a change in their career paths.  This is when they determined that they wanted to be their own boss and become entrepreneurs.  In 2007, Claudia and Andres created LIFEPACK, an environmentally friendly and socially responsible company.  As natives of Valle de Cauca, Colombia, Claudia and Andres were passionate about protecting the country where they were born and raised. 

    “We saw problems with the amount of environmentally unfriendly products being offered and decided to create something to change this” said Claudia, “we started with recyclable paper; however, this wasn’t very successful, that is when we found our niche and created the concept of plantable plates”.

    All of their products are made from natural fibers such as pineapple crowns and seeds that can germinate and are 100% biodegradable.  Close to 70% of packaging can germinate after one week, thus contributing to the reduction of GHG emissions.  

    “The beauty of our product is that after the product it used, you can plant it in the ground or in a garden and the product disintegrates and grows into a plant like strawberries, flowers, herbs etc.  Additionally, if you don’t want to plant it, you can just throw it away and it will disintegrate.”

    After Claudia and Andres settled on the concept for their product, they then opened a production factory in their hometown where they continued to keep their promise of being socially responsible by working with local non-profit institutions to employ single-mothers. “When you buy our plates, you are not only supporting the environment, but also these women who now have jobs and are able to support their families and children”.

    With their company having great success in Colombia, Claudia and Andres knew that wanted to expand.  They saw potential in other South American countries but ultimately decided to take a risk and aim to sell their products in the US.  

    In February of 2015, Claudia and Andres made the difficult decision to move their family from Valle del Cauca, Colombia to St. Louis, MO.  The decision to move to St. Louis came after Claudia and Andres were
     winners of the 2014 Arch Grants.  Arch Grants, is a St. Louis based organization that hands out non-equity $50,000 grants to startup companies from across the globe.  

    Soon after their arrival in St. Louis, Andres and Claudia came into contact with The St. Louis Mosaic Project.  “When we came to St. Louis, the Mosaic Project welcomed us with open arms.  They helped us to get to know and understand the community here and also to help us to grow and promote our product".  

    "The Mosaic Project is important to us because it’s created for immigrants coming to St. Louis to help them and also to help the city grow.  People, who are in the same situation as us, connect with others within their network”.

    Settling into their new life in St. Louis has been easier then they thought.  “People are so warm and friendly, it’s a great place to raise a family.  I feel happy here and welcomed. In St. Louis, there are many multi-national companies and opportunities for people from St. Louis and anyone who wants to come.  It’s a growing city”.  

    Claudia and Andres envision a bright future ahead of them.  Their goal is to open a production factory here in the US, specifically St. Louis and to continue using non-profit organizations to help them to find potential employees such as single mothers and veterans.