Olivia is adorable. We met her when we lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We worked at the same school, Colegio Americano. Friday afternoons, a gang of us teachers would head over to the bowling alley to enjoy the super refrigerated air-conditioning, some acrobatically bad bowling and frigidly cold drinks. We always had a wonderful time.
But life goes on. We left our wonderful friends in Puerto Vallarta to sail south to parts unknown in our Sailboat “Blew Moon”. The years went by. We lost touch but we never stopped cherishing those wonderful friends and good times we had shared.
There seems to be some cosmic soup we all swim in where basic laws of physics apply. For every action there is a reaction, or in this case, at least a ripple effects. After putting up a blog posting entitled, “Setting up your own Sales Specialist business”, Olivia wrote to us.
“Just found the Itchy Nomads. Got to read some material and think it is awesome. Something caught my attention. I’m trying to work on my inner being so I believe that things happened for a reason. A friend of mine and I are starting a new business. We would like to export a Mexican traditional “sauce”. Reading from your experience I would like to know more on the exporting/importing process. One of our goals is to export to the USA, Canada and Europe. Is there a special site, guiding list or process somewhere that we can get to read? Your help is more than appreciated.”
Her project fired us up! We have been entrepreneurs since our early 20’s. We have enjoyed doing a lot of business and start up development and consulting over the years. We wanted to do all we could to help Olivia, but we also wanted to catch up and hear about the intervening years. She shared with us that she and her husband had a second little girl after we left, but they eventually divorced and she has been working full time as a teacher and raising her two girls.
“As a teacher I have been grading papers, doing parent Conferences and as a group counselor, I Ah! and not to forget the paperwork for each activity….At home… well there goes 2 more extra hours of work…No wonder why my daughter is my toughest critic. “As soon as you put your head in the pillow, you start snoring.”
We started asking some questions about where she and her friend were in the business development of their idea. After all she had never started a business, and it can be pretty overwhelming to know where to start and what to focus on.
“Where are we right now? CONFUSED!!! Hahaha…. The exporting idea came out some weeks ago, so we started talking to the family that makes this sauce. The sauce has 37 different selected ingredients, it is homemade, and it can stay out of the fridge for one year. The ingredients are all natural, chili is one of them. My brother-in-law is a designer, so he is starting to work on the label and stationary. ”
Our questions prompted Olivia and her business partner, Eréndira to do some market research, “There are a couple of cheaper brands here in Mexico, but our sauce is way beyond them. It is more an artisanal gourmet. The family that makes the sauce is very open to help us by putting it in a jar and labeling it”
As our conversations progressed we and Olivia and Eréndira started researching exporting the sauce.
“I have been reading a lot on the import/export process, researching for prices to see how competitive we can be. We are looking for an import/export lawyer to see what are our needs, taxes, requirements. Also my sister is helping us with the accounting procedures. We want to make sure that is feasible, stating a price and compare to our competitors, if any. Some people have told us that it is not so easy to export food to the States, but we have our believers. My father used to say that there are no impossibles. So far, so good. I’m working right now finding the perfect jar at the best price. Once we get that we can start printing labels, getting in touch with gourmet stores.”
Then there was life intererruptus; an intrusion in Olivia’s project that had to take priority.
“It was a hard week. I had to visit a couple of doctors because I was pretty scared. One of the doctors told me that I might have an aneurysm that forced me to visit a couple of doctors. Luckily the neurologist told me that I was OK, crazy as always, but OK. Now I’m updating almost 2 weeks of of missed work and my daughter’s Birthday this next weekend. But life goes on, and I’m happy to be alive.”
We sent over a number of websites (see Resources below) that we thought would be helpful to Olivia and Eréndira.
“I just peeked at some of the material that you sent me and I truly believe that is going to help us a lot. I wish I could have more time for this, but a teacher’s pay in Mexico is not good enough to take some time off to leave school and work on this business. I am going to be talking to some people in the websites you sent and keep in touch with you… .”
In our businesses, we have worked closely many times with the US Trade Department-U.S. Commercial Service which offers some free and some fee based consulting, matching U. S. Companies with target customers or providers in other countries. They are a wonderful resource. They also have an office in Mexico. We suggested to Olivia that she contact the U.S. Trade Department office in Mexico City (see link below), and that she also look for a similar agency with the Mexican Government to aid her in her research.
“I found a site that helps people trying to export from Mexico, fairs where we can go to show our product…. It is like the Mexico Exporting ABC’s (see link below). It has a loooooot of info but it is just what we needed. Now I am starting to see the light. Things are getting a shape. In the meantime I’ve been researching and writing to get budgets on jars, what are the sizes accepted by the FDA in USA and also in Canada… Amazing how many things I have learned so far. We will be making an appointment with a custom broker to know the process and documentation. I spend 5 to 6 hours in front of the computer researching for my things. I hope this dream comes true. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and then I think about the results of this process. “
About a monthly later Olivia sent some pictures and update:
“I am not working full time anymore. I go to school for a couple of hours, but have been working on the transition. Next week I’m going to be doing some of the things that will help me to dedicate most of my time to the sauce business. I was offered a job in Tepic, but not taking it since my goal is my business. We did a demonstration of the sauce creation in a very beautiful place called Jardín Campestre Quinta Las Rosas Puerto Vallarta. It is a garden next to a river rented for weddings, and special events. We made up a batch of our special sauce there for breakfast Sunday morning to test our product with some people. I am attaching some pictures.“
So in just a few months Olivia and her business partner Eréndira have gone from the seed of an idea to a pilot of their finished product. They are starting to test the market and get their business execution phase going, with the help of an Export Lawyer, Customs Broker, support of family and a lot of perseverance.
We look forward to reporting as their business progresses in the coming months.
If Olivia can do it with a fulltime job, 2 kids and lots of other of life’s challenges, you can too! If this story inspires you to pursue your dream of starting a business, inventing a product or do something that your creativity craves, please share it with all of us.
We encourage COMMENTS from your experience that could be of help to Olivia’s business.
Le deseamos toda la suerte del mundo Olivia y Eréndira!
Wishing you all the luck in the world Olivia and Eréndira!
ProMexico – Mexican Government Resource for exporting (in English & Spanish)
Foodoro – is a marketplace for artisanal food that connects passionate foodmakers directly with consumers. They have an online storefront technology that may be worth checking out.
LocalHarvest – an organic and local food website. They offer a directory of small farms, farmers markets and other local food sources around the U.S.
Fooducopia – is a marketplace for indie food producers and small scale farmers. You can open a store on their marketplace and they help do the heavy lifting, so to speak, of helping you sell and market your goods.