When Lorayne, 30, and her wife decided to start their own business in Mexico City, they had a solid foundation to work with. They had the idea: Xplozione, a company that designs and sells pop-culture-inspired gift boxes. They also had the expertise, since Lorayne had received her bachelor’s degree in communications and was proficient in graphic design programs.

Still, they needed the financial resources and management skills to get their business off the ground.

"Our products were appreciated for their originality,” Lorayne says, “but when we began to receive larger orders, we couldn't fill them due to the lack of money to buy additional material.”

A woman stands holding a red and yellow box.
Lorayne, 30, merges art and creativity to build custom gift boxes inspired by her favorite books and movies, like Harry Potter.
Photo: Everardo Esquivel

That’s when they discovered the Resilient Futures program from the International Rescue Committee and Citi Foundation. Launched in 2022, the program supports refugees and migrants in Mexico City with skills training, mentorship, financial resources, job placements, and start-up support so they can build their careers and contribute to economic growth in the country.

With the Resilient Futures program, Lorayne and her wife received the seed capital and mentorship they needed to establish and grow their business.

Read more about Lorayne’s story and the impact of Resilient Futures:

Growing up in conservative Colombia

Lorayne was raised in a small town in the Santander region of Colombia where “people live well but [are] tied to very conservative norms.” As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Lorayne often experienced prejudice and felt in danger for simply being who she was.

A woman stands in front of greenery with a hand on her pocket.
“I love being Colombian, and I loved my people, but I no longer wanted to continue living like that, with that fear,” Lorayne says. 
Photo: Everardo Esquivel

While studying for her bachelor’s degree, she was threatened and harassed by some local men due to her sexual orientation. Over time, she decided she had to leave to ensure her own safety.

“I love being Colombian, and I loved my people, but I no longer wanted to continue living like that, with that fear,” Lorayne says. 

Finding love across borders

While still in Colombia, Lorayne met her now-wife on the internet. Their relationship blossomed and they took turns visiting each other on short trips, saving for months to afford the travel.

“After two years of a long-distance relationship, I decided to move with her to Mexico,” Lorayne says. “Because of this we were able to get married."

At first, Lorayne moved in with her wife's family, but they later became independent. Lorayne and her wife now live together with their two puppies. 

From a small town to Mexico City

Lorayne experienced a major culture shock upon arriving in Mexico City.

"The people here were always very kind to me, but in the beginning, it was hard for me to go from a small town that you could cross in an hour to the huge metropolis that is Mexico City,” Lorayne says. “The truth was that it was hard for me to get used to it."

“It was hard to go from a small town to the huge metropolis that is Mexico City.”

It was also tough for Lorayne to gain work experience. Even though she had a degree in her field, her job pool was limited. Any company that hired her had to be registered with the National Immigration Institute.

Eventually, Lorayne found work as an administrative assistant and a graphic design assistant, which she used to work towards her larger career goal.

Building a business from scratch

Lorayne has always been an entrepreneur at heart, but she didn’t have the tools she needed to build her own business.

“In my jobs, I have stood out for being very accomplished and doing quality work, but the truth is that I have always dreamed of having something of my own from a very young age,” she says. “I have had many ideas, but I was never allowed to develop them because of the circumstances I have gone through.”

“I have had many ideas, but I was never allowed to develop them because of the circumstances I have gone through.”

During the pandemic, one of those ideas came to fruition. 

While isolated, Lorayne began to suffer from depression and anxiety. So she looked for ways to make connections with people and spread joy. That’s when the idea for Xploboxes was born — merging art and creativity to build gift boxes that could be delivered to people’s doors. After completing the first product designs, Lorayne and her wife developed the gift boxes into a business called Xplozione. 

A woman stands holding a jar of red liquid. In front of her is a table displaying other colorful items.
Lorayne and her wife created their Xplozione gift boxes to spread joy during the pandemic.
Photo: Everardo Esquivel

"What I like most about Xplozione is the reaction and emotions that are reflected in people,” Lorayne says. “Someone could be in a bad place today and an Xplobox can bring a smile to their face. Small details can change your day to even save a life.”

Lorayne often pulls inspiration from her favorite books and movies to create the boxes. "I think I have a very young soul,” she says. “I love Harry Potter, superheroes, Disney, and especially Ariel; that's why I have hair like her.”

A red and yellow box with a wand and other supplies is displayed on a table next to containers of liquid and paintbrushes.
One of Lorayne's gift boxes, inspired by Harry Potter, includes a wand, potions, and edible treats.
Photo: Everardo Esquivel

She even has a name for the corner of her home where she works and keeps her tools: “The Burrow,” inspired by the Weasley family home in “Harry Potter.”

Resilient Futures provides support

Lorayne and her wife continued to work at their day jobs while building their business. However, they didn’t have enough additional income to invest in their idea.

Then they learned about the Resilient Futures program at a local job fair and discovered the opportunities it provides. Resilient Futures is part of the IRC's growing livelihoods programming across Mexico, which seeks to support refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants as they find work and build their careers.

"At first, we were a bit hesitant,” Lorayne says. “We really didn't think it was possible for an organization to want to train you and give you financial support without gaining anything in return. But then I researched and saw the impact that IRC had in the world. After meeting the staff and verifying the quality of their care, I felt completely confident."

“We didn't think it was possible for an organization to train you and give you financial support without gaining anything in return.”

With Resilient Futures, Lorayne received training and mentorship, covering aspects like creating a business plan, defining a budget, and launching digital marketing campaigns. Xplozione was also selected to receive seed capital, which Lorayne could invest to grow her company and execute her business plan.

Hands touch a black board filled with colorful sticky notes.
The Resilient Futures program provided Lorayne with training, mentorship and resources to grow her business.
Photo: Everardo Esquivel

"For me, the mentoring program has been equally important if not more so than the seed capital,” she says. “You can find a lot of information on the internet, but knowing how to adapt it to your business is not as easy. The courses have helped me identify where I have been making mistakes, and they’ve broadened my horizons to consider other possibilities."

Making her mark

It’s been six years since Lorayne settled in Mexico City. She now feels at home there. She’s no longer afraid to use public transportation, she travels around the city on a motorcycle and enjoys the local food.

Next, she hopes to continue growing her Xplozione business and explore new entrepreneurial ideas.

Two women sit in front of a laptop, smiling.
Lorayne receives support from an IRC staff member as she continues to grow her business. "I have faced setbacks in realizing my dreams but now," Lorayne says, "I feel that I am on the right track."
Photo: Everardo Esquivel

One of her biggest dreams, for example, is to open a café-bar in her hometown in Colombia. "It does not matter if I am managing it from afar; I want to return and create a place that has my mark,” Lorayne says. “Throughout my life, I have faced setbacks in realizing my dreams but now, I feel that I am on the right track."