Five Successful Entrepreneurs in Cuba
Five Successful Entrepreneurs in Cuba
The first private business owners came up in Cuba during the 1990s, also known on the Island as “self-employed workers”. One of the most significant measures within the economic reforms boosted by Raul Castro’s administration was aimed at broadening licenses for this kind of work, which brought about the flowering of individual initiatives. PanamericanWorld introduces five entrepreneurs that have been successful with their business.
Bewitching Natural Soaps
Back in 2010, Sandra Aldama Suarez decided to put her profession aside (Handicap Specialist) and become a self-employed worker. In 2013 she opened her own store, D`Brujas, which was initially nestled in near famous La Bodeguita del Medio bar and it’s presently based at San Jose Warehouses, Port Avenue, where she sells over ten types of soaps produced by her with natural ingredients (zeolite, camomile, honey, coffee, coco, cacao…). The international boom of natural cosmetics and the increasing ecological awareness have been key elements to the success of the product.
At the very beginning she was only selling two or three soaps a day, but that figure has currently climbed to over 25. Most of the customers are Cuban, some of which go for wholesale business; although the number of foreigners is considerable, with Canadian tourists standing out as regular customers. In spite of the short time the product has been on the market, D`Brujas soaps have been acclaimed. They presently are the only soaps of their kind in the country and the owner gives the possibility to order significant amounts.
The packing is also very attractive. Sandra dreams about having more raw materials and the possibility to have a bigger premise so the store and factory can be at the same place and people can watch the making process, as well as a small garden in order to cultivate the plants she uses.
In 2010, Roberto Carlos Vidal, everybody calls him “Carluchin”, opened a workshop to repair cellphones. He didn’t have many pieces at the time, only basic instruments. The he traveled to Ecuador, one of the few visa-free countries for Cuban citizens, and he acquired the supplies he needed.
His initiative was in great demand, so he could grow. Nowadays, “The Cellphone Clinic” provides services in four branches based in different spots of the capital city. Beyond the lack similar workshops and the quality of the service, the advertising and marketing campaign has been one of the strong pillars. At “The Cellphone Clinic” people can charge their phones for free, the units are repaired, operative systems are installed or restored, they have developed Isla Adentro app so as to provide detailed information on gastronomic services, accommodation, entertainment, transportation, among others.
These young entrepreneurs are looking forward to diversifying the services they presently provide. They’d like to have the legal capability to sell cellphones and accessories, as well as to rent lines or units for national and international customers.
ADIT is another private business that has gained momentum in Cuba. The acronym stands for the main objectives of the creators: Adventure, Enjoyment and Technology. Pistolaser is the first product of this group and it has become very popular. This competitive game simulates shootings with infrared technology and, although the people were kind of scared at the beginning, they cannot presently handle the growing demand.
In 2013, Rafael Martinez quit his Biology studies in order to completely devote his time to this activity, along with his partner Ulises Amador. They were interested in breaking paradigms and that’s why their proposal combines technology and recycling. The guns and vests are technological toys acquired overseas, but the battlefield has been created with recycled material and they customized the software used to follow the scores during the game. The first Pistolaser field in Cuba can take up to fifteen players, who fight for one of the free positions in the tournament that is organized every four months. These entrepreneurs face such problems as the lack of raw materials to make their own guns and the limited Internet access, a platform they want to use so as to follow the tournaments in real time.
Designing & Printing
Jose Serra Colina graduated in Graphic and Informational Design. In 2002, when he left his State-run work, Serra launched Ctrl+P, the private business where he provides designing and printing services on different supports, ranging from paper to complex canvas, vinyl, glass and textiles.
Ctrl+P features a privileged location, right at 23rd Avenue, one of the most popular arteries in Havana. Serra Colina admits that there are competitors, but the fine work done by his partners, along with the quality of the equipment, are key factors to guarantee the success. Nevertheless, he underlines the need to have access to different supplies that are marketed in Cuban stores, but the prices are high and they are out of stock sometimes.
Cuban Cuisine for the World
La Guarida was one of the first private restaurants in Cuba, commonly known as “bistros”. Its doors were opened on July 14, 1996, right where prizewinning Cuban movie “Fresa y Chocolate” was shot, a key element to its success.
Many people currently say that La Guarida, nestled in a majestic building from the 20th century in Central Havana, stands out as the best bistro on the Island. The owner, Enrique Nuñez del Valle, closed his electronics workshop and opened this adventure. Cuban typical dishes, along with traditional cocktails, are in great demand by patrons, who can also order international food. The menu includes new dishes every year, accompanied by recipes that date back to the opening date, and they have been acclaimed by diners.
Nuñez del Valle, who manages the business with his wife, doesn’t need much for La Guarida to remain healthy, as it is internationally prestigious. But he does have a little dream: he wants all Cuban people to afford eating at his restaurant, since it’s presently far away from the average income of workers on the Island.
Article written by Nadia Herrada Hidalgo. PanamericanWorld. Havana