Mission Complete: Thank You For Your Support

Hello Readers and Supporters of Entrepreneurial Trek,

Andrew and I are so excited to announce that Entrepreneurial Trek: South America is now available for purchase in both eBook and print versions. As a thank you to those that have either (1) donated to Entrepreneurial Trek, (2) subscribed to our blog and/or (3) actually participated in the interviews as a South American entrepreneur, we would like to offer each of you a FREE version of our Entrepreneurial Trek eBook. You guys ROCK!

You can download your copy of the eBook by clicking the button below and by using discount code FREE at checkout. Simply save the file to your Kindle or Apple Reader App on your tablet/mobile device, then start reading! The promo code will expire November 18, 2018.

We are eternally grateful and humbled by your support.

Andrew Bagwell & Kaitlyn Ersek Bagwell

P.S. If you have any trouble downloading your eBook, please reach out: Kaity606@gmail.com

P.P.S If you donated $50 or more to our Indigogo campaign, you automatically get a print version of the book. It’s in the mail! If you do not receive your book by November 18, 2018, please reach out!

P.P.P.S We will continue to steadily release interviews to this blog so stay tuned!

Vinyl Sound Peru: Creating a Community of Vinyl

Vinyl Sounds Peru

Miguel Locatelli, music aficionado and owner of Vinyl Sounds Peru, guided us into his vinyl store located in a hip Lima neighborhood. Vinyl Sounds Peru was started in 2013 and was recently named on of the top start-ups at Start Up Academy – a local incubator serving Lima-based Peruvian entrepreneurs.

Miguel started his career as a music teacher at a local University and eventually left to pursue his passion of vinyl. However, Vinyl Sounds Peru is more than just a music shop – it represents one of the largest communities of vinyl listeners in Latin America. According to Miguel (this translated from Spanish), “At Vinyl Sounds Peru, we believe in creating a community of Vinyl… not just selling music. We provide information and host events and get-to-gethers for Peruvians that appreciate Vinyl.”


Instrumentos De Mi Tierra: Making Money Doing Something You Love

Instrumentos De Mi Tierra

Buried in Bolivia’s Witchmarket, in a corridor filled with handcrafted goods is a small music shop called “Instrumentos De Mi Tierra” (or Instruments Of My Land in English). Gonzola Huanca has been hand carving and selling string instruments for six years. His favorite instrument and most popular is a 10 stringed - miniature guitar-looking instrument, called the charango – an instrument only found in Bolivia and parts of Peru.

Andrew, who plays the ukulele decided to take Gonzola up on his offer to give him charango lessons. Gonzola patiently coached Andrew through a couple lessons and by the end of his practice Andrew was playing a four-chord song with a medium tempo.

Gonzola came from a family of musicians and music lovers. He apprenticed under a musician and instrument crafter for three years before opening up his own shop. Crafting a guitar can take up to three days and a charango up to week. That’s because when building an instrument, “quality material and quality construction can drastically affect the sound of an instrument.” For Gonzolas, “buying the right materials, especially quality materials from Bolivia is important. If you don’t select the right materials, you are going to always end up with a poor sounding guitar or charango.”

When Gonzola first started his business six years ago, there was much less competition. Now, with an increase in tourism in Bolivia, competition has grown but on the plus side a steadier stream of tourists, means steadier income for Gonzola. “You don’t get rich selling instruments in Bolivia. But, if you are good at what you do, you can make a good income doing something you love.”

According to Gonzola, his favorite part of being an entrepreneur is, “meeting people from all over the world. Every day I get to learn about different cultures and people and teach them about Bolivian culture too. I love teaching travelers about our music culture in Bolivia.”  

After a few pictures with Gonzola for our blog, Andrew bought his first charango, taking a little of Bolivia to remember him by. We then said goodbye, heading down the bustling streets of vendors, tiendas and more goods than the eye can see.  

Chocolates Para Ti: Smells Like Chocolate!

chocolates para ti

When we walked into Chocolates Para Ti (Chocolates For You in english)- a coffee and chocolate franchise in La Paz, Bolivia, we were greeted by the smell of chocolate. We sat down at one of the coffee tables, and drooled down at a menu listing over 20 types of natural chocolates made in Bolivia.

Veronica Gantier opened the franchise in 2015 after helping launch the first Chocolates Para Ti store in Sucre, Bolivia. As an architect and designer, Veronica designed the entire store layout for booth the Sucre location, and her own franchise in La Paz.

chocolates para ti 2

Veronica admits that since opening the La Paz franchise in 2015, “business has been slow. It is not as successful as I had hoped. While La Paz is an excellent place to start a business, our location within La Paz doesn’t have a lot of traffic. Regardless, I believe that the design and layout of the store helps bring in some customers because it creates a great environment to enjoy chocolate.”

“My cousin and I have been dreaming of opening a place for years. While, the concept did great in Sucre, neither of us knew how to run a business and had to figure it out on the go. Originally, I was supposed to help start the business and leave it to my cousin, but in the end I wound up taking over most of the operations.”

The future of Veronica’s franchise in La Paz is uncertain because of the struggling sales. “Only time will tell,” she says. Our fingers, and taste buds are crossed!

Disenos Ana Palza: Empowering Indigenous Culture

Disenos Ana Palza

The first thing we noticed when we walked into Ana Palza’s design studio, Disenos Ana Palza, were the mannequins adorned in colorful cholita dress, equipped with the iconic bowler hat, plush petticoats, shawl and huge decorative jewelry. Ana is a jewelry designer for Cholita fashion, the style worn by Cholas or Cholitas (the common term given to Bolivian indigenous women).

“It wasn’t too long ago when Cholitas would have been shamed for the way they dressed. They were discriminated against in their education, job opportunities and were even banned from certain parts of the city. Now, Cholita fashion is huge and even non-indigenous Bolivians are taking part, like me.” Ana participates regularly with the numerous fashion shows in La Paz, featuring solely Cholita dress. But, the biggest time in Cholita Fashion is Gran Poder, a two week long Christian religious celebration observed by the indigenous community in La Paz.

A big reason why Cholita fashion has become a movement in Bolivia was the presidential election in 2005 when Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president was elected for the first time. His two terms has ushered in pride for Bolivian roots and reduced social injustice. The president was elected for a third term on January 22, 2016 (historically only two, five year terms have been legal).

Cholita fashion

“Fashion is seriously important to Cholita culture. It’s a huge status symbol. Wealthier Cholitas will spend up to 3,000 USD on a piece of jewelry and that doesn’t even begin to cover the expenses regarding their skirts, hat and shawl.” Cholita women who can’t afford a 3,000 jewelry set which includes earrings, pin for their bowler hat and shawl, can rent the jewelry at a lesser cost if they have the money, or settle for cheaply made copper jewelry (keep in mind, minimum wage in Bolivia was set at $215 a month in 2014). Ana is exploiting a middle of the road approach. “Our jewelry sets are about $300 and are handmade by Bolivians.”

It’s also important to Cholitas that they own a unique set of jewelry. The look of the jewelry is fiercely guarded secret in case competing women copy the style.

Ana has been in the jewelry business for 15+ years, starting when her sister and former business partner traveled to China and brought back Chinese styled and priced jewelry back as a gift for Ana. They quickly started a jewelry import business in Zona Sur (The wealthy district in La Paz) and employed over 15 women to help sell and create elaborate pieces. “But, like all good ideas, it was soon copied by other entrepreneurs. Margins slipped, we starting laying people off and eventually closed down the business.”

Two years ago, Ana started Disenos Ana Palza. “We are the only option available in Cholita fashion in the mid-tier price range. But, I know that because we have been successful people will soon start to copy our model. Our competitive advantage is our styles. We mix today’s Cholita fashion with older indigenous styles and modern western flairs. For example, this year our fish and coin jewelry has been very popular.” Ana shows us a special set of jewelry featuring fish (a sign of abundance) and old Bolivian coins. “Pearls have also been a hit.”

“I am very ADD,” admits Ana with a chuckle. “So, I am constantly creating. I think that is a big asset for me. Ideas just fly and I notice new trends all the time. The way my mind works helps me create and helps me stay ahead of the competition.”

Regardless, Ana says, “Entrepreneurs have to be adventurous, risk takers and can’t be afraid of failure.” Her piece of advice for current and wanna-be-entrepreneurs? “Figure out what you love to do and make that your business. If you love what you do, the money will come.”

Cholita 2

Soy Emprendedor: Barriers for Peruvian Entrepreneurs Need to Change

emprendedor peru

We met Edwin Vargas of Soy Emprendedor (Translated to: I am Entrepreneur Peru) in a trendy café in the heart of Lima’s commercial district: Miraflores. With him was Renee Rojas, a cheerful industrial engineer turned agricultural entrepreneur who is currently running a vertical garden installation business.

“Our goal is to provide a green space for offices and houses. We want to create something beautiful… a little peace of nature for people living in cities,” Says Renne. In addition to providing vertical gardens, Renee also supplies office plants that come in a variety of sizes. “One of my biggest problems is cash flow. Our vertical gardens require a lot of upfront cash and that’s difficult for a small business,” says Renee.    

Matilde Victoria Gonzales Quesada, a chocoholic turned chocolate manufacturer and member of Soy Emprendedor, agrees that cash is a big problem for Peruvian entrepreneurs. “I can’t scale the business the way I want to because I can’t access needed capital to hire other chefs. We have large customers waiting to place large orders, but I can’t produce enough chocolate to fulfill the demand. Right now it is just me and one other employee making our chocolate.”

Matilde's business, Delicias Matty’s produces chocolate without sugar (instead she uses stevia) and with Quinua and Cocoa. “It’s positioned as a healthier form of chocolate,” says Matilde. She’s been selling to boutiques in Lima for two years now.

“There are a lot of barriers for Peruvian entrepreneurs,” says Edwin of Soy Emprendedor. “Financing is tough and the government isn’t pro entrepreneurship. In time, we are hoping this will change.”

Soy Emprendedor is an organization that began 5 years ago to unite and offer a place of community for Lima’s entrepreneurs. Most of the organization is online, but they often meet at a café to discuss their businesses and entrepreneurship at large in the country.

El Mundo Papel: The Starving Artist is Dead!

El Mundo Papel

When we first came across Isrealo Sucro, the young artist and entrepreneur was bent over a sketchbook, ballpoint pen in hand, working on a cartoon. The cartoon’s focus was a fish that was inspired by the waters of Peru.

Five years ago, Isrealo graduated from art school and turned his private art studio into an entrepreneurial enterprise. He transforms his cartoon sketches into cotton t-shirts, tote bags, notebooks, stickers and other forms of merchandise which he sells from his studio/boutique, El Mundo Papel in Miraflores, Lima, Peru.

Isrealo Sucro on left, Andrew Bagwell right. 

Isrealo Sucro on left, Andrew Bagwell right. 

“El Mundo Papel allows me to do what I LOVE while making money. That is something special.” For Isrealo, the term "starving artist" doesn't exist.

“I get inspiration from everything” he explains. “The ocean is a big inspiration. New experiences and traveling gets me the most excited to create.”

He had recently returned from Cusco and, inspired from the antiquated architecture, devised a new series of cartoon drawings featuring Incan houses coming to life with eyes and arms sprouting from the walls.

In addition to creating designs and selling merchandise, El Mundo Papel holds popular classes teaching linocuts, that allow students to create their own unique print.

peru art

“I love to teach,” explains Isrealo. “I can see how happy people get when they create something awesome and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction. My favorite age group to teach are kids because of the excitement they have for art.”

In the future, Isrealo hopes to give back to his community, especially to those kids in Lima that don’t have the opportunity to take art classes. “I would love to teach or create a project with the kids from Lima’s poor,” says Isrealo, reminding us of Lima’s dark side.

Between the neighborhoods of Miraflores de San Juan and Sucro is a 10-foot high cement wall rimmed with barbed wire. Nick named the Wall of Shame, its purpose is to divide the gorgeous modern neighborhoods from the shantytowns of Lima’s poor.  

Source: BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34451418

Source: BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34451418

“By stimulating creativity in kids, I think we can really make a difference, especially for kids in poor neighborhoods.”

El Mundo Papel may have started as a way for Isrealo to sell custom t-shirts to family and friends, but it has evolved to become so much more. El Mundo Papel has become an oasis for everyday people to explore and support the arts in Peru. Looking forward, Isrealo can’t wait to give back to his community, and to expand El Mundo Papel workshops across Peru.

Barranco Beer Company: Brewing a Craft Beer Revolution in Lima, Peru!

Peru Emprendedor

“All hard work, deserves good beer,” says Andres Lefevre, Co-Founder and CEO of Barranco Beer Company, as he clinks glasses with us during the interview. We were ten minutes in to our conversation and already Andres was recommending our next round of craft beer produced by Barranco Beer Company. We could see that interviewing a brewer could be both fun and dangerous at the same time.

Andres is a maverick of a businessman (Which is saying something for those of you that know entrepreneurs) and isn’t afraid to follow his gut, even when partners, common cultural norms towards beer and the government are telling him otherwise. His attitude towards building a business is an attributing factor to why, Barranco Beer Company, a microbrewery and restaurant located in Lima, Peru has been a success.

From left to right: Andrew Bagwell, Andres Lefevre and Kaitlyn Ersek

From left to right: Andrew Bagwell, Andres Lefevre and Kaitlyn Ersek

“My father and uncle had the inspiration for this brewery,” says Andres of Barranco Beer Company. “A love for beer was always in the family. Some kids grow up having a small glass of wine for Christmas with their parents, I grew up with beer,”

Andres’ grandfather worked for the national beer company, Compañía Nacional de Cerveza, owner of Pilsen Callao. It was also the only true Peruvian option in beer at the time. “The problem was that Peruvian Beer just wasn’t that good. My father and Uncle understood that and wanted to work to make it better. They decided to go into business together and asked me to help them brew.”

At first, Barranco Beer Company was designed as a brewery only and the family had no intentions of opening it as a restaurant. They purchased the property and equipment and started testing brews while waiting for government approval to officially open up shop. “But the government wouldn’t let us open.” They didn’t want another alcohol-oriented business in the area.

Too late, Andres and his family already had the brewing equipment, bar and beer ready to go. “So we started the business anyways,” admits Andres with a chuckle. “We shoved all the tanks and supplies in the back of the shop and covered them up until evening. Then we secretly invited the community over for drinks.”

Unfortunately, Barranco Beer Company hasn’t been our only Peruvian business to start up without an official license. The government’s bureaucratic process is lengthy and our entrepreneurs complain that its holding start ups back from opening.

Eventually, the government and the Leferve family came to an agreement. Barranco Beer Company opened as a restaurant and brewery as opposed to an alcohol-only establishment.

Right off the bat, Barranco Beer Company was a success and reeled in a large following of locals and tourists. “But, I wasn’t happy with the beer we were serving,” admits Andres. “I wanted to serve the craft beer styles I loved in The States.”

Despite traditional attitudes that light lager, Pisco and Rum were the only alcohols of import, Andres instinctively believed that Peruvian culture, which prides itself on fine food, would mesh well with craft beer. “Peruvians have such an amazing palate,” says Andres. “I knew that Peruvian pride in food could translate to beer.”

Barranco Beer Company's investors weren't convinced and initially voted against craft beers. Without permission (A common trend?), Andres began releasing a different craft beer every month. Each beer was created with local ingredients like algarrobina, ginger, Peruvian cacao nibs and honey harvested from high altitudes in Cusco.

The craft beers were a hit and investors soon warmed up to the concept.

Andres believes that South America is going to be the next leader in craft beers. “Samuel Adams was a huge inspiration for me. They were the first to introduce craft beer to The States on a large scale.”

The climate faced by Jim Koch when he started Samuel Adams Boston Beer in 1984, was similar to the one faced by Andres two years ago in Lima. For Koch, with only pale lagers from mass-market brewers as an option, he understood that America needed a better brew.  

While traditionally only the National Beer Company manufactured beer in Peru, Andres and new microbrewers in Lima and Arequipa are brewing a craft beer revolution. “Peru went from a culture of anti Pale Ale to a culture that loves it. It’s a huge first step for beer. I would love to do for Peru, what Samuel Adams did for American craft beer.”  

When we talked to Andres he was only in year two of running Barranco Beer Company, but has seen great success to date. He is now selling his craft brewed beer all over Lima and is getting requests from Cusco, Arequipa and other large Peruvian cities.

Andres credits his success to taking a big initial risk by incorporating American style craft beer in Peru. “Many other ideas, cultures and concepts from The States could be very successful here in Latin America, you just need to find the one that clicks.”

ALLPA: "Start Thinking Like An Entrepreneur."

“We entered the textile and jewelry industry by chance,” Says Maria del Carmen De la Fuente of herself and her co-founder Nelly Canepa at ALLPA – a seller of Peruvian textiles and jewelry. “At the time, we were working for an NGO; training local artisans on how to increase the quality of their products and to sell their products to the regional and global markets.”

Maria loved learning the stories of these local artisans and understanding the production process and meaning behind each craft. “The problem was that the artisans needed to stop thinking like artisans and start thinking like entrepreneurs if they were going to make a living for their families.”

That’s when Maria and Nelly started ALLPA. “We partner with local artisans and sell their goods to The States, Canada and Europe. One of our largest customers in the US is the Ten Thousand Villages stores based out of Lancaster, PA.”  

ALLPA prides itself on transparency, excellent service, fair trade, sustainability and good stories. “So long as we maintain those key aspects, ALLPA grows.”

Through their partnership with local artisans, ALLPA provides training to ensure their products have excellent quality, but also to ensure that their artisans know how to run their small businesses efficiently and safely. “In the beginning our classes were simple, like how to pack the products. But it soon developed into teaching them how to improve their technical skills, and how to manage their books and industrial safety techniques.” To ensure their products were high quality and that their artisans were working in a safe and sustainable manner, “we needed to adapt big industry standards to the local artisan markets.”

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

At the end of the day however, “we never know exactly what will sell. Each year we develop 500 new products. We will sell 100 and the rest will stay in our showroom. Yet, over the years, we have learned how to smell what will sell and to develop the kind of quality products the world is looking for.”

Las Vecinas: When Trendy Meets Delicious

When you walk through the hidden door of Las Vecinas in Lima, Peru, the first thing you notice is the smell of freshly ground coffee. Next, you notice the walls strewn in photographs and the trendy, recycled furniture and adornments. Lastly, you might take note that the entire menu is vegetarian and local – a bit of a rarity for Peru and Latin America at large.

Las Vecinas

Zonia Zena is a photographer and world traveler turned café owner. She has always had a huge love for cafes, which stem from studying abroad during University, and thought opening a café in virgin territory (AKA Barranco, Lima, Peru) might provide the cash flow to support her second love: Photography.

“It is beautiful and perfect,” says Zonia of the café. “It has been a lot of work and it was a risk. But, I think when you really believe in something and you enjoy doing it, people react to that. The moment I no longer enjoy owning the café, I’m going to close it down.”

Zonia opened the café three years ago with the help of a family investment. “We were the third café in the area. Now there are many more.” And yet, the vegetarian and recycle theme to Las Vecinas separates it from competitors. “I wanted to create an experience in all the senses, enjoying good organic food in a cozy atmosphere.“

When we asked her what her favorite thing on the menu was, Zonia recommended the La Provenzal Sandwich coupled with the freshly squeezed Mango Lemonade. “It’s a grilled Panini with feta goat cheese, olives and herbs, one of the first sandwiches that were created at the cafe”

Today, Las Vecinas has more than 20,000 followers on Facebook. “About 40% of our customer base are either tourists or expats, the rest are Peruvians.” Most of her customers have come from social media and especially Trip Advisor. “I’m really lucky to have such amazing customers. They truly enjoy the café and the vision I created. That is special and I am proud of that."