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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

Source: BBC

“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!

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“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.”

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."

Antigua Miami: "Anything could happen in Bolivia"

Bolivia entrepreneur

“Bolivia is a fun place to start something in. You never know what is going to happen. Anything could happen here,” says Sukko Stach, Founder of Antigua Miami, a café in the heart of La Paz’s bustling tourist district.

Sukko grew up in the Bolivian restaurant industry. When he studied at a Canadian University, he worked for and helped open several restaurants and bars in the area. “It was a lot of work and I put in a lot of energy for something that wasn’t my own.” So, Sukko decided to pack his bags and return to Bolivia to start his own venture.

“One of the great things about opening a business here in Bolivia compared to Canada is that the initial investment is A LOT lower,” explains Sukko.

Sukko discussing coffee with a customer from Germany.

Sukko discussing coffee with a customer from Germany.

“I decided to open a coffee shop as opposed to a bar or restaurant because a coffee shop is manageable by a single person and involves less energy,” says Sukko. Sukko sees Antigua Miami as an incubating space for future ideas. “It’s a way to test and better understand the Bolivian market in La Paz,” explains Sukko. In the future, he plans to open other businesses, starting with a micro brewery.

Despite the fact that Sukko opened the coffee shop only 10 weeks prior to our interview, Antigua Miami was already listed as the #1 restaurant /café to visit in La Paz on Trip Advisor. So far, about 80% of Sukko’s customer base are tourists. That’s because tourists tend to be more in tune with the coffee culture than do Bolivians.

The coffee shop itself is an accumulation of Sukko’s travels. “I was super inspired by traveling through Europe. I’ve been taking ideas from other places and have finally been able to put them all together and to manifest Antigua Miami’s identity.”

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When it comes to entrepreneurship, “It is about taking a risk and really following through with your ideas. A lot of people have great ideas. Having a good idea is just 5% of success. The rest is when you make those ideas a reality.” For Sukko, making his dreams a reality starts with putting his ideas on paper. “I carry around a moleskin journal and write down all of my dreams and ideas. You never know when one of those ideas will come in handy a few years down the road.”

TOC: Keeping LATAM safe one fingerprint at a time

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Chile Security

In Santiago, Chile, TOC is doing its part to increase security and privacy for consumers through its biometric security systems and electronic signatures. When wandering around Santiago, it isn’t unusual to find TOC hardware asking to capture your index of thumb finger and scan your identification card in exchange for signing a document and/or ensuring your identity. “Today, it’s easy to steal your information and assume a fake identity, but at the end of the day, these people could never steal who you truly are – and that’s recorded in your fingerprint,” states Ricardo Navarro – CEO, founder and inventor of TOC.

Identification cards are used in roughly 50% of the world (not in the USA). They carry a chip containing information on your identity including an image of your fingerprint, your national number, birthdate, address, etc. TOC reads identification cards and double checks information provided against fingerprints for security purposes. To ensure maximum security, TOC captures between 40 and 120 characteristic points that are unique to your finger. “We have never had a fraud or false positive identification, and our false rejection rate is the lowest on the market, lower than 0.8%” says Ricardo, “while our competition has a false rejection rate of 18-20%.” Watch the video below to learn more about TOC's technology (If video does not appear in email, click here.)

Their revenue model consists of three key points: the rental of their hardware with unlimited ID verifications, the number of electronic signatures, and their new development which works on smartphones and tablets with biometric sensors. Today, TOC is doing business in Chile and Peru. In 2014, they won the Innova BBVA contest, DigitalBank Latam contest in Santiago and recently the Digitalbank Latam contest in Lima.

TOC believes they have just started to unravel the future of technology. “We believe the progress we have made so far is just 10% of the potential we have as a team. I am always thinking of how to enhance people's lives through technology and continuously looking to improve technology.”