by Alan Taveras, Co-Founder, Brands of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is in a deep crisis and it’s impossible to deny that fact. Nevertheless, the best opportunities are created in times of peril. Distress and necessity are the biggest fuel of innovation. We all have read that famous quote where Albert Einstein says that a crisis is an opportunity. For this piece I dug a little deeper into that quote. To my surprise, I encountered a paragraph in that same essay that struck a chord. It left our team with the same sentiment we felt after realizing in the early days of March 2014 that thousands of Puerto Ricans joined the diaspora: something has to be done. It goes like this,
“To speak about a crisis is to promote it. Not to speak about it is to exalt conformism. Let us work hard instead. Let us stop, once and for all, the menacing crisis that represents the tragedy of not being willing to overcome it.”
In times of crisis our normal perspective of reality is torn, and only those who have that special “je ne sais quoi” that gives you the strength to turn an idea into an enterprise flourish. A true entrepreneur is a great opportunist.
In the last days of February 2014, newspaper covers started to turn gloomy. Financial crisis, downgrade of our credit ratings and exponential growth in the diaspora were our daily bread. During those days, my brother and I were pushing, against all odds, our digital marketing agency Tresepic. Filled with drive, a few connections, and a little stupidity, we were poised to make our name stand out. One Friday afternoon, the both of us along with two other teammates had the crazy idea of creating the biggest, quality-oriented, catalog of Puerto Rican brands and products to supply the growing diaspora in the states. Both of us had the privilege of studying abroad, thus we knew the hardships that Boricuas go through in order to get the products we love.
For a couple of months we just focused on getting traction and building a brand. After a call with “CNN en Español” where they stated that they wanted to interview us, we knew we had something even though local media didn’t take us seriously until that same interview came out. We launched on July 11, 2014 with only 30 brands. After twelve months, our family of brands has almost tripled and our catalog has more than 500 products. During this year, our team has grown. We have met the most interesting people this island has to offer: talented artisans, innovators, artists, farmers, inventors, creative people from all ages and municipalities, academics, politicians, and celebrities among others. Every day there is a new brand and a new story. In our short life span, we helped people located in the farthest regions of the continental USA and United Kingdom enjoy what Puerto Rico has to offer. We have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions that go from tears of celebration to ironic laughs.
www.brandsofpuertorico.com, the “amazon” for local brands, as many people call it, is just an opportunity that levels the playing field for local entrepreneurs while connecting the diaspora with the products they miss. At the same time, we give them the power of directly investing in our country and those who stayed. It’s a marketing tool, but it has a social focus. A distribution channel that supports the existing local brands, but empowers the new batch of Puerto Rican entrepreneurs. Our slogan, “Somos más que 100×35”, is an open invitation to leave behind the “small island” mentality and start to compete globally. The internet gives us the opportunity to transcend our geographical borders. Brands of Puerto Rico is the e-commerce that connects local brands to the world. Currently, 70% of our sales are shipped to the continental USA.
Even though we brought an opportunity to a sector that had been well abandoned by almost every other one in the Boricua society, it’s imperative that every Puerto Rican collaborates, whether they are located within or outside the island. The patterns are clear, even now that “empresario” has become a buzzword in the “academia”, government platforms, and the press. Almost every entrepreneur I personally had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with (hundreds from every part of the island, thanks to the FUERZA PYME initiative) doesn’t feel supported by the consumers. We need more entrepreneurs, but more importantly, we need to support them by buying their products. A Facebook “like” or a “share” is not enough, we need to change our paradigms and start buying local.
We need to foment innovation and give hope to those who stay. The solution to our economic and cultural crisis needs an open-minded approach to insert Puerto Rico as a global player in the globalized commerce. Our team started with an idea to empower local entrepreneurs and slowly our concept is beginning to take form in other markets. Brands of Puerto Rico is the first step of the Brands of concept, which looks to connect Latin America and its entrepreneurs to the global market. We invite every Puerto Rican, entrepreneur or not, to think differently and act epic. If we achieve that change of mindset as a collective, our pineapple will get sweeter.🍍😉