Entrepreneurial Discoveries by Lauren Smith

by tuftsigl
Sep 22

If an entrepreneur is not pragmatic, then she is likely to fail. My experience this summer conducting market research for my nascent company, ONDA, exemplified this adage. When I arrived in Mexico City at the end of May, I was armed with an idea and a plan to turn it into reality. However, after two months of on-the-ground research, both my ideas and plans changed.

Ultimately, I learned that creating a strong brand of gourmet food products is more important (and likely) than building a physical kitchen space where women can cook and learn. Although I eventually aspire to do so, such a center will not constitute the foundation of my business. Consequently, I have altered my business model to focus on providing women with technical assistance, marketing, and distribution for their food products. I also discovered that the best food does not come from Mexico City, but instead from other states like Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Chiapas. Trips to several of these regions enabled me to find many promising products and entrepreneurs with whom I plan on working.

As I discussed in my previous blog post, starting a business is not for the faint of heart. This is true regardless of where one is doing so, but the challenge is augmented in a foreign country. Even more challenging is being a woman in a place where machismo pervades society and business. Convincing men of the importance of helping women access capital and grow their food businesses was sometimes very difficult and frustrating. However, my strongly held belief in its importance and the positive feedback that I received from many men and women encouraged me to carry on.

In addition to researching and planning, I spent most of my time this summer forging relationships with businesspeople, food producers, chefs, and new friends. I had the pleasure of meeting countless people working in the fields of food, investment, and policy who inspired me to continue working hard to make ONDA a reality. I will soon return to Fletcher where I will digest what I have learned in an academic environment and begin to write my business plan. Invariably, more changes will occur as my knowledge and experience grow. Nevertheless, I do know that one thing that will not change: my steadfast commitment to improving the lives of female food entrepreneurs in Mexico and to sharing their culinary treasures with gourmands around the world.

Many thanks to the Institute for Global Leadership and the Empower Program for their financial and moral support, without which my enriching experiences this summer would not have been possible.

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