Corpus Habana: A relationship that transcends a simple commercial dynamic
Cuban entrepreneurs have been significantly affected by the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid change in human mobility patterns saw the tourism industry collapse, taking away the main market for many of the services and products offered by the emerging private sector. Social distancing measures transformed the way small businesses operate and created an existential need to adapt.
The current health crisis and its negative economic effects are, however, presenting unique opportunities, revealing how social entrepreneurship can help produce necessary improvements to the way the country functions and communities develop and interact.
Corpus Habana, a women-led project focusing on holistic wellness, is on a mission to redefine good health as something more than the absence of illness or disability. Initially based on the traditional business model of a day spa focusing on massage therapies, Corpus Habana is now working to expand its services and position itself as a leading educational platform in health care.
Suney Peña Corrales, a medical doctor by training, founded Corpus Habana motivated by her commitment to create the resources needed to approach health care in a more comprehensive way. “We wanted to develop a space where people could take care of their problems, we wanted to show how to prevent illness through natural techniques,” she explains.
Corpus Habana originally tried to fill a specific market niche by offering spa services to tourists and expats outside the traditional hotels, something that wasn’t very common when they started. Since then, they have reached a bigger audience by turning more locals into loyal customers and conducting workshops and seminars on the health benefits of their services.
The pandemic interrupted the organic growth of the project and forced a restructuring of core activities. “Our main services require human contact in a very intimate space. For that reason, we’ve dedicated more time and energy toward other components of our project.” Corpus Habana manufactures essential oils and other natural products and uses social media to promote and sell these new products. “Through online sales we’ve been able to establish a unique bond with our customers. Especially under these circumstances where we are all isolated, we can keep providing care to others.”
However, it is an enormous challenge to find the supplies and raw materials to produce the products they’re offering. Corpus Habana relies on a very fragile supply chain, filled with the inconsistencies and shortages endemic to the Cuban economy. “It takes daily creativity to find things and maintain the quality of our products,” Suney notes.
Despite these issues, the new products are becoming more popular, facilitated by an online marketing strategy composed of a strong presence through messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Corpus Habana’s website is now a publishing tool dedicated to promoting better health practices.
While Corpus Habana promotes its services, it also seeks to motivate more people to move away from the classic approach to health care based on drug treatments and instead discover the many forgotten elements of wellness.