A story of resilience, courage, overcoming and inspiration

Today, the line that divides the high-performance athlete and the marketing product is becoming thinner, more diffuse. In fact, there are specific cases in which athlete and product are the same, true traveling companies. In the distant 80s, however, this was a nascent phenomenon, reserved for the few, the elite, in the most popular sports. 

That, of course, is not the case of a discipline like water skiing, traditionally relegated to the media and, except in exceptional cases, also far from the sponsors' radar. That's why, the story of Ana María Carrasco, CEO of IOCA Group, is so inspiring. A story of overcoming, resilience, resistance, bravery and courage. 

His parents, originally from Spain, lived through one of the most difficult times in that country, that of the civil war. The irrational violence forced them to emigrate, first to the Canary Islands and then to South America. They disembarked as stowaways and with a dollar in their pockets. Arriving in Caracas (Venezuela), his luggage was his dreams and the love he felt for each other. 

They started from scratch (or, perhaps, from less than zero), a hard start that turned into motivation to build a better future and, above all, the most important thing: a family. After two years in Venezuela, María Victoria was born and, two later, María Esperanza. Ana María, the little one of the house, arrived eight years later with severe respiratory problems. 

With only two months He was on the verge of death as a result of a rebellious whooping cough with spasms in the bronchi. It was a difficult time for the family, long nights of vigil and prayer. In a bleak scenario, the pediatrician who attended her gave them a small illusion: the only hope of recovery for the girl was that she lived by the sea. 

Every weekend, then, the family went to an apartment in Laguna Beach, in the state of La Guaira, in the north of the country, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. After eight months of continuous visits, Ana María showed signs of improvement. That was the beginning of a powerful connection with the sea, the environment and nature, also components of his life purpose. 

Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Higuerote, not far from there, in the neighboring state of Miranda. Its beaches are recognized for their tranquility and beauty and are visited every day of the year by both foreign and national tourists.. It is also the point of arrival for hundreds of cruise ships that travel through the different tourist paradises of the Caribbean. 

It was there that the Carrasco family discovered skiing, thanks to a Dutch married couple, surnamed Stähle. He was the coach of his daughters, the European champions, and by virtue of the friendship with Ana María's parents, her older sisters María Victoria and María Esperanza began to practice this sport. It was the beginning of the dynasty of the Carrasco sisters. 

In the midst of nature, through her parents, Ana María became passionate about ecology, caring for the sea and its environment. A powerful connection that grew stronger as she and her sisters won competitions and scooped up trophies. More than skiing, she and her sisters danced on the water and delighted fans with their great skill..

 A decade later, Ana María was not only the best skier in the country, but also a figure of Latin American sport. She was world champion in the 80s, in the figures and combined modalities; he set several world records and won the most important tournaments in this sport, such as the US Masters, the Pan American Games and the World Games, among others.

At the same time, and in order to obtain the necessary resources To finance her career as a high-performance athlete, Ana María created the Corporación Prestigio Acuático (CPA). This company sold articles for the practice of water skiing and soon managed to put together an attractive portfolio that included skis, boats, bathing suits and wetsuits (wetsuits). 

Kidder, Ski Nautique, Dorita Vega and Rip Curl were some of the brands, but la crown jewel it was Oakley. This company had been created in the garage of the house of James Jannard, in California (USA). It started in 1975 with products for motorcycling. The glasses appeared in 1980 and were popularized by the triumphs of professional cyclist Greg Lemond. 

The triumphs were combined with great lessons that taught Ana María that the difficult thing is not to climb to the top, but to stay there and climb higher ones., more challenging. At 28, however, her life told her that she should follow other paths: she studied Business Administration to make her way into the other passion that ran through her veins: business. 

Since he was 15 years old, he sold advertisements for a magazine called water skiing and other sports y at 16 she became the image of Dorita Vera, a well-known swimsuit designer from her country. She was the first female skier to compete in a bikini.. At 18, along with two clerks, four salespeople and 40 seamstresses, he set up his swimwear brand. 

Then, at 20, he began to distribute Oakley products, an activity to which he was dedicated for 33 years. This brand was the great teacher of IOCA Group, thanks to the identification of its purpose and its vision of the future. As a result of that alliance, IOCA Group was distinguished 15 times as 'Best Distributor of the Year' and for 3 consecutive years as 'Best Overall Distributor'. 

A chain of successes that allowed him to take the most precious trophy, 'La Mina', to his office in Venezuela. IOCA Group It is the only company in the world that has received this award. In 2009, on the crest of a wave, his life took a radical turn: he settled in Hallandale (Florida), in the USA., fleeing from the difficult situation in his country and in search of a better future for his family. 

His business had grown and he already had stores in Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, in addition to Venezuela.. New opportunities presented themselves and in 2015 he returned to the textile industry, thanks to the creation of the Wizz brand. There was, however, an unfinished business, a bill that he couldn't wait any longer, and he set out to pay it. 

He allied himself with two industrial designers, one from the United States and the other from Venezuela, and together with his partner started the venture called Bevu, reusable containers. It is a project inspired by caring for the sea, its ecosystem, which led her to create a new, toxic-free product. and made with reusable materials. The purpose is to make this planet a better place. 

Now, as head of the IOCA Group, Ana María faces a new and challenging challenge: the digitization of the company's operations. It was a goal drawn from the past, but that was accelerated due to the pandemic. This crisis, which shook the foundations and raised fears for the future of the organization, became the opportunity to take the step towards digital. 

Over four decades, the IOCA Group has developed a management system that has helped other companies become leaders and benchmarks in their industry. Today, hand in hand with powerful tools such as big data, artificial intelligence and business intelligence (Business intelligence), promotes the transformation of businesses into extraordinary companies. 

There are many difficulties that Ana María Carrasco and the IOCA Group have been successful in the past. And there will be more in the future, because such is life, such is business. However, there is the conviction that better times will always come and that this crisis was just a test of which IOCA Group you will come out stronger. It is not a promise, but a commitment. 

This circumstance has brought out the best of the IOCA Group, of each and every one of the members of this great family that has been formed over the years. They are valuable people and committed professionals, aligned with the values ​​and principles of the organization and, especially, with an unwavering dream: to build a better world. 

Everything that has happened, all the difficulties, is nothing more than an opportunity that life offers us to be better, to learn. And we are going to take advantage of it, we are taking advantage of it. Just as little Ana María managed to save her life through her connection with the sea, IOCA Group will crystallize her dreams thanks to the connection with her clients. This is a promise...

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