Maria Grappini belongs to Timisoara's new entrepreneurial class. She grew up in Galati County and studied at the Textile Faculty in Iasi (Eastern Romania), graduating in 1978. Her husband – whom she met during her studies – having come from Timisoara, she moved there after graduation.
Today Maria Grappini is the main shareholder of Pasmatex, a textile company specialising in lacing, ribbons, bands, woven labels, and girths. The history of Pasmatex dates back to 1919 when the company started with three manual knitting machines. By 1925 it had 14 looms for ribbons and 10 knitting looms, and employed 53 people. During Communist rule, the company was nationalised. Through expansion and mergers it grew to employ nearly 900 people by the 1960s.
Grappini was appointed technical director in 1988. Two years later she became general manager. At the time, the company employed some 300 workers. Its only chance to survive, Grappini realised, was through privatisation. Though there was little interest in the company, she had to fight for more than a year until the company was put up for a management and workers buy out.
Bank loans allowed new investments in machinery to be made. Besides the core business of producing ribbons and bands, new clothing brands have been launched. Pasmatex, along with its subsidiaries, now employs some 700 people. It exports mainly to the EU.
Maria Grappini is also the President of the Federation of Employers of the Apparel Industry, and President of Timis County's Association of Women Entrepreneurs. She still sees a major need to ameliorate the situation for women in business:
"It's more difficult for a woman. And it's more difficult in Romania because there is still this mentality here, which doesn't change however hard we try: that the woman's place is not in politics or the business world, but at home."