From Peru to CU: Student Spotlight on Liliana Ferrua

Degree: MS International Business with specializations in marketing and management

Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

Being an entrepreneur is hard work. Long days. Little sleep. Facing failure over and over again in the hope of achieving that major breakthrough. Tack on being a native-Spanish speaker and a full-time student, and you’re also dealing with a cultural learning curve and limited free time.

Meet Liliana Ferrua.

New Kid on the Block

Ferrua, a Peruvian international student, came to CU Denver to pursue a master’s degree in International Business with a specialization in marketing and management after a seven-year career in the textile industry.

“I quickly realized after my first month in Denver, that I not only had to adapt to a new culture, but I also had to learn a different educational system [grading, lectures and assignments],” she said. “I had to prove to myself and professors that I could accomplish new challenges.”

After getting encouragement from Manuel Serapio, associate professor of International Business, Ferrua did just that. She entered her business concept, Kiddin’, into the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship’s fall 2016 Business Plan Competition, THE CLIMB.

“I created a business plan for Kiddin’ as a part of a class project,” Ferrua said. “I consider myself an ethical and socially-conscientious person and wanted to create a business with a dedication to social responsibility.”

Shoes for Social Good

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Ferrua showcases her Kiddin’ shoes at THE CLIMB | Business Plan Competition in fall 2016.

Kiddin’ is a shoe company that provides innovative and high-quality sneakers for children. The idea came from her desire to encourage children to maintain an active childhood in a fun way, as the shoe itself contains color-changing properties when exposed to sunlight.

“Children these days are not as active as they used to be, and I want to get kids back outside,” Ferrua said.

She was chosen as a semi-finalist for THE CLIMB and had only two weeks to develop her prototype. In front of the audience and judges, she demonstrated how the shoe changed colors with a UV ray.

“I was nervous enough pitching my idea as an international student, but then I realized I was the only woman competing in a sea of men, Ferrua said. “Regardless, people liked the idea, and I had several women talk to me after the competition to learn more about it.”

Although she didn’t make it to the finals, she had a great experience overall.

“I learned a lot about myself during the process,” Ferrua said. “Even as an international student, you can succeed here [at CU Denver]. What seems like a small idea can be a big one if you put your mind to it.”

Growing as an Entrepreneur

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Ferrua pitches her business concept, Kiddin’ at THE CLIMB.

Since participating in THE CLIMB, Ferrua has incorporated Jake Jabs Center courses such as International Entrepreneurship and New Venture Operations & Project Management into her academic curriculum.

“After THE CLIMB, I realized that every course I take moving forward should complement my business venture,” she said.

In addition, Ferrua has attended different events and workshops hosted by the Jake Jabs Center that allowed her to network with local entrepreneurs and gain access to business resources she might not have discovered elsewhere.

As if she wasn’t high-achieving enough, Ferrua serves on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council for the CU Denver Business School, is treasurer of the International Business Student Network, is a member of CU Denver’s Golden Key International Honour Society, and maintains a 3.9 GPA. She is also the 2017-18 recipient of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Master’s/First Professional Degree Completion Fellowship.

The driving force behind her success is her parents. She says they taught her “the importance of creating a positive impact everywhere I go.” That mindset is what drives her to become a successful, ethical, and socially-conscious entrepreneur.

Not Kiddin’ Around

Ferrua hopes to bring Kiddin’ to market within the next few years. “I am working on obtaining the patent, want to eventually raise some money through crowdfunding and want to apply for an organic label,” she said.

To achieve this, she wants to use only organic textiles when manufacturing the shoe. “I want my textile partners to be from Peru, because Peruvian cotton is of great quality. Due to my previous work experience in the textile industry, I have an idea of which companies to work with,” Ferrua said.

All future business plans aside, the reality of starting a business from scratch is not lost on her. “If you really want something, you might have to sacrifice other things in life,” she said. “I had to cancel a trip back home once to focus on this project.”

As she looks back on her experiences here at the CU Denver Business School so far, she has one piece of advice for her peers. “Build on your relationships with classmates and colleagues from different cultures, countries, and majors. Having a well-established network is key to achieving the goals and dreams you wish to pursue. Never stop pursuing them, whatever they may be.”

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