Our objective: Ensure the economic sustainability of la Casa Hovde in Mexico City in order to build more Hovde Houses around the globe, thus maximizing the Foundation’s impact.
Our plan: Acquire or start a venture in Mexico City whose profits can be used to ease the the casa’s operating costs. Hovde Houses are a fundamental asset to the countries where they are present (Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, the United States, Ghana, and Kenya), as they provide life’s basic necessities like food, shelter, and education, to vulnerable children. By highlighting the private sector at its best, Hovde Houses can transform street children into future leaders. In Mexico, the kids, the house, the business opportunities, and our team’s experiences here will surely have idiosyncrasies only seen in this part of the world. Our blog, through prose and photos, will highlight Mexico’s unique offerings: from culture to business and politics – as well as the small details that will promote the TEM Lab’s success.
Color TV, tequila, popcorn and chewing gum are some of the things the world can thank Mexico for, these things speak to Mexican capacity to create and try new things. In this regard, there is yet another world class superlative Mexican production to mention: the richest man alive today. Think about it! (about Mexico, not about Slim) This market of 113 million people has been the incubator for the greatest fortune in the world.
Beyond the politics and irregularities that have caused the pie to be selectively owned, this blog is an acknowledgement to those who are making a creative living with what is left. Here are my favorite Mexican made economies:
1. The shoe shining business
From our time in Mexico, it seems that shiny, almost glowing, shoes are the norm regardless of age or gender and therefore, chances are you won´t ever be more than a block away from one of these portable throne look alike stands. Unfortunately I cannot give you a number on how many people make a living out of shoe shinning. What I can tell you is that it is a well developed retail business: indisputable maximization cost per area (because location is everything), consistent corporate image, open business hours and differentiation based on the experience: free newspaper for your leisure available (leftist, rightist or gossip depending on location), in depth conversation also available upon request, food and pets allowed, 10 minute “shoe massage” comprised of shampoo, cleaning, whipping, polish and shinning all for 1.30USD to guarantee total customer satisfaction
Last week, as our group narrowed our project scope to focus solely on Language School Acquisition or a Cell Phone tienda, we had to think consciously about how to approach the remaining two business ventures…
What should we say? Should we pretend like we want to take classes? Do we tell them our real names? Should I say I don’t speak English?
As part of the Language School group, teamed with Milena, we weren’t exactly sure of our approach. There are over 300 Language Schools across el DF and, from what we’ve found, there is no way to know if someone wants to sell their school unless you ask…there is no Craig’s List for selling/buying language schools in the city, though we did place an ad on Craig’s List, yet to our dismay, only received one, somewhat sketchy, response. (That would have given us far too much margarita time though.) Read more »
Mexico City is known for its large population, excruciating traffic, and rich culture. But one aspect of the country’s capital that often remains in the dark is its soundtrack: the vibrant sounds generated by the three aforementioned factors. These noises are enough to awaken all 5 senses: from tasty and aromatic tamales carts and piercing traffic horns honked out of frustration, to a warm embrace that organically happens upon hearing a catchy song, and the unique sight of watching traditional performers in one of the most modern settings on the globe. The following video, edited in a way that makes a satire of popular music compilation commercials, serves to remind the world how engrained Mexico City’s exceptional soundtrack is to every day chilango life.
Carlos Slim is the richest man in the world for the third year in a row. Last year, he had a net worth of $63.3 B. His enterprises represented 8% of Mexico’s GDP. América Móvil, Slim’s overarching telecommunications company, is the largest telecom company in Latin America and the fourth largest, in terms of equity subscribers, in the world. Today, Slim controls 80% of the landline market and 70% of the mobile phone market in Mexico.
Given that we are interested in starting or purchasing a cell phone distribution store in México City, “Slim Center” was a natural destination. The physical embodiment of the empire is difficult to put into words – one feels infinitesimally small, as an ant that stands on the back of an elephant. My colleague, Maria Carolina and I, scale up around 100 stairs to reach the entrance of the mega shopping center. I feel as though I am walking up the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán – the famous ruins 40 minutes northeast of Mexico City – only this is a modern pyramid made of glass. And unlike the ancient capital, at América Móvil, here the king lives on.
As we settled in to our cornered off section of LeBouchon Restaurant in Polanco last night to welcome and meet
Mexico City T-bird Alums, it was hard not to notice (especially when the barrier is a 2-foot wall of plants) the speed dating “Forgotten Valentines Party” happening simultaneously. While it made for some entertainment, we had much more fun chatting with our fellow T-birds. We met expats, native and self-proclaimed Chilangos (Mexico DF inhabitants), LatAm students, and even a few who, though not alums, live a lifestyle that makes them honorary Thunderbirds. A true group of T-birds, representing Mexico, The United States, Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Germany, Colombia and Scotland, we all find ourselves currently living en el DF. While the event was scheduled from 8:30pm-10:30pm, people showed up early and it was almost midnight when the last of us filed out the door. It was a night for our group to come together, get to know one another, share stories and, especially, cheers to Thunderbird (though I have no problem cheers-ing any night to a program that allows me to escape Glendale and spend 5 weeks in Mexico City and get credit for doing so.)
Before leaving Arizona, our team had the task of comparing our personal Cultural Orientation Indicator (COI) to that of Mexicans to see how ready we were to dive into their professional culture. Although we absorbed a general overview of how Mexicans operate, it was not until we arrived here that we really began to understand the do’s and don’ts in professional Mexico. With the help of Gabriel Manjarrez (mentioned in Josh’s piece, People Not Paper), we can share some highlights.
Picture: Mexican entrepreneurs learning business culture in el DF
1. Drink during a business lunch
Good tequila to warm up the stomach, nice wine to complement the food. It’s normal. If you dont want to drink too much, then dont finish your glass. As soon as the watier or your boss sees it empty, it will be automatically refilled. Guaranteed. If the boss orders an alcoholic beverage, do not order a Diet Fanta. Ideally, order what s/he’s ordering, but as long as it has alcohol in it, you’ll be OK. Read more »
Last week, our team settled into an office at Finestrella, a company that offers post-paid cell-phone plans to millions of unbanked Mexicans without access to credit. On Wednesday, we sat down with Gabriel Manjarrez, CEO and co-founder of Finestrella and Endeavor Entrepreneur. Gabriel, based in Palo Alto, seamlessly moves across cultures – USA and Mexico, every couple of weeks. When Carolina told him, “I really like entrepreneurship and want to hear successful stories,” Gabriel responded, “oh, I thought you wanted to hear my story.”
Such a response was in keeping with his nature – humble, generous, and witty. Gabriel’s credentials are impressive – BA from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (Felipe Calderón’s alma matter), Stanford MBA, McKinsey consultant, SVP for National Hispanic Consumer Marketing at Bank of America, co-founder of Progreso Financiero (a micro-lender for illegal Mexican immigrants in the US) and finally, CEO and co-founder of Finestrella.
When Latin Americans (either by birth or by osmosis) hear the word chapulín, they think of Roberto Gómez Bolaños’ fictitious superhero, El Chapulín Colorado. However, during our trip to Oaxaca this weekend, chapulines took on an entirely different meaning – one that activated our global mindset.