Evolution of Entrepreneurship in Colombia - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Evolution of Entrepreneurship in Colombia

Flashback to 1998 and the business world looked very different from the way it does today. There was limited access to the internet, the iPhone was nothing but a pipedream, and businesses stuck to mom and pop bricks and mortar stores. Oh, how things have changed!

Take a look at any country around the world today, and you’ll see business revolutions right in front of you. Small brands are signing contracts with multinational firms, and startups are securing millions of dollars in funding without having made a cent of profit. The business world is more dynamic, exciting, and challenging than ever before – but it’s great fun, too!

One country where change is being felt the most is in Colombia; a boatload of entrepreneurs are reinvigorating the economy, offering new opportunities for skilled workers, and taking their businesses global. Today, we speak to Craig Dempsey, Founder of Biz Latin Hub, who shares his thoughts on the changing Colombian landscape, and offers tips for entrepreneurs who are considering investing in the country or want to promote their products to its citizens.

Craig! Why do you think Colombia is so popular with entrepreneurs?

There are so many reasons why small and medium-sized business owners are trying out their luck in Colombia. Not only is the country home to the third-largest economy in South America, but it has some particularly attractive industries, such as textiles, manufacturing, agriculture, and oil. With countries such as Canada changing their laws on Cannabis, for example, there are some significant opportunities for businesses to manufacture medical marijuana, and export it to other countries. For many, Colombia can be considered a hub for manufacturing and producing lots of high-quality materials for businesses to sell worldwide.

At the Biz Latin Hub Group, I’ve seen so many people come to me and discuss their plans for a new venture, and when they decide to invest in Latin America, I often push them toward Colombia. Not only does the country have low barriers to entry, but it’s quite easy to secure a visa in the territory, and you can go from entering the country to selling your products in a matter of weeks. Compare that to a country like Australia, which requires months of visa processing and endless paperwork, and it’s clear why Colombia has grown in popularity.

Finally, as the world becomes more and more competitive, I believe that many businesses are seeing international expansion as the future of entrepreneurship – and so they’re looking to countries like Colombia to access low labor costs, high-quality raw materials, and a strong local economy that has yet to be fully realized by their competition and wider industry. Indeed – if you’re the first AI-powered banking app in the country, as an example, and you invest in marketing to boost brand awareness, you’ll be at an advantage when competitors enter into the fold and try to take some of your market share. In my experience, acting fast is critical.

There’s been a great deal of investment in the country, right?

Absolutely. Over the past several decades, there has been a whole host of investments in the country – and in many ways, that’s fueling the rise in entrepreneurs and the country’s spirit. From 2011 to 2016, for example, Europe invested around USD$30 billion in the country – and that investment made up just 31% of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). US investment in Colombia, on the other hand, has also seen significant growth – individual businesses, governments, and investment funds are working together to invest in the country, which is empowering small businesses, boosting employment, and making the country more of an attractive offering. The more of these investments there are, the harder it’ll be to make a splash in the country and have a real impact with your business, so don’t delay. As I’ve already mentioned, entering the country as soon as you can make sense.

How easy is it to take advantage of Colombia? 

This is one of the most commonly asked questions I receive, and the truth is that it’s never been easier to enter the market and start making some money. One of the first things you need to think about is forming a company, but with the right help and some patience you’ll be able to do this with no issues at all. Once you’ve established a presence in the country, you can then think about recruitment, and hiring an employee or two to manage the day-to-day running of your business. Of course, it pays to hire someone who can speak both English and Spanish to maximize your chances of securing sales and to make it easier when you are working on a marketing campaign, for example. If you only hire English-speaking employees, then you’re going to struggle to make the necessary contacts required to thrive in the market.

Once you’ve got the basics right, you can then start to seek opportunities – finding a low-cost supplier, for example, or securing funding from local government grants and accelerators.

What skills do you need to make it big as an overseas entrepreneur?

There are so many things that you need to think about when starting a business in a new country, and becoming a real entrepreneur. A lot of entrepreneurs I know share the opinion that you should do as much as you can on your own, and outsource tasks like marketing and sales to other people. Indeed, it’s important to remember that you cannot do everything in business – sometimes, you have to let your guard down and accept that other people know better than you do. Utilize staff for their core skills, always be on a journey of continual personal improvement, and know when to take a break. The truth is that you’re going to have to work very hard if you want to crack another market, especially if you’re not familiar with the language and need assistance with translation and business development, so don’t underestimate the power of hard work – and remember to switch off from time to time.

I know first-hand the benefits of establishing a business in another country – I wish everyone the very best of luck with their venture, whether they decide to invest in Colombia or not.

About the author

Luis is a A seasoned executive, leader and growth driver with solid knowledge on media buying, email marketing, B2B sales and business development. As co-owner and COO at Silver Bee Marketing he transformed a small digital ad agency to become a Data Broker owning 350+ ranked websites across a number of highly competitive markets such as Health and Wellness, Insurance and Beauty; all monetised though partner offers and deals with data brokers. Well versed in finance, sales and operations, Luis is a well rounded executive capable of taking on challenges and coming out on top. Contact the author.

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